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Random Question

For those of you who have had a scary lump, did you find yourself afraid to even touch your breast for fear you'd feel it again?

I half-expected to be worrying it like a sore tooth, but instead I'm trying to avoid even touching the sides (and when you are over a certain size, this is not feasible--I am sitting in a chair typing on a tablet and my boob is plonked down on my forearm because otherwise I have to hold the tablet out at a weird angle, a fact I never noticed until right this minute.)

And I know this is stupid because cancer doesn't care if you poke it and it is surely a cyst anyway. Still.

(About once a day I try to re-locate it to make sure I'm not hallucinating. I don't appear to be. I had a breast exam three months ago and nobody gets a tumor that size in three months. It's a shame that knowing all this doesn't actually help.)

I'm mostly curious--and thank you, everyone, who's been sharing their stories, because it does help a lot (and probably not just for me!)

Your description yesterday about the breast being like a jello mold and the lump like a marble was extremely helpful to me--back when doctors first tried to tell me about checking for lumps I always thought 'well hell, ALL of it's lumpy in there!'

I've had cysts myself and I know sometimes they're painful too, so I'm empathetic on that front as well.

And most of all, thanks for being open and posting about it. Those of us quiet lurkers care about you too.

According to my doctor, the ones to run, don't walk to the doctor will feel like an irregular piece of gravel--hard, small, and possibly even pointy. (Were this anything like that, I would have gotten on a plane and flown home to my doc same day.)

In my perfect world, puberty would come with a standard issue stress-ball thing that had faux tumors and cysts so you could feel what it WOULD feel like.

I did not have a lump.

What I did have was a mother who'd tested positive for a BRCA mutation, two cousins who'd also tested positive and had preventative mastectomies, and a great deal of family pressure to go get myself genetically tested.

Of course, the best way to get me to avoid doing something is for my mom to bring it up all. the. time. So I put it off for months and months... until the fear of having cancer was greater than the fear of knowing if I was genetically doomed. When I found myself trying to shine a flashlight through my boobs to see if I could notice anything, doing self-exams in every shower, obsessing over every little twinge, I finally went and got tested.

I do not have Mom's stupid cancer gene.

And yet-- every tiny change in my breasts concerns me, and I go through phases of "I don't wanna know!" and "maybe I should go to the doctor?" and "it's probably nothing, they're breasts, they do this," and "I'm sure that's a muscle thing but... but..."

Thinking good thoughts your way.

Not quite the equivalent, but earlier this year a lump was found on one of my testes. It also turned out to be a cyst, confirmed by an ultrasound (and wasn't THAT an experience), but the time between finding it and getting the scan done was about a week. The reaction and fear I had during that time sounds close to what you're experiencing right now, though you're dealing with it in far better terms than I did. May your fears be quashed as fast as mine were when it was over.

I went through a similar experience in my mid 20's, when I developed a row of painful cysts all along my right breast. Almost certainly benign, but the sonogram showed some "irregularities" whatever that meant, so they did a needle biopsy just in case. While waiting for the results, I could mostly forget about it during the day, but at 2am all reason and logic and coping was gone - cue obsessive breast poking and imagining scenarios of breaking the news to my mother (who'd lost her husband and her father to cancer and oh god, please, don't let me be a third person she has to go through this again). All was well, thank goodness, but now, especially as I move into the age range where breast cancer is more likely, I alternate between worrying the usual lumps like a sore tooth to make sure they're behaving themselves (usually at 2am, of course), and avoiding checking at all because oh crap what if I find a new thing. (Incidentally - "Nine Goblins" is awesome reading to knock my brainspace out of those 2am anxiety spirals, so thank you <3)

Dear Ursula --

I'm still getting to know you, continuing to appreciate your fine talent -- and this post really shows how well you write.

Women especially worry about cancer (I'm in remission from another kind), and yet we all feel so very alone as possible symptoms turn up. You and your two friends make me appreciate what a sensitive community we enjoy here. We can be frank; we simply transcend all those RL inhibitions, and truly SHARE our hopes and fears. I am hopeful your current concerns will prove misplaced; I'll continue to follow you, in any case.

Thanks so much, Justine

Well, your blog is now the first place where I've heard you can have lumps in your breasts that are not cancer, so this will be a big help if I ever find one of those.
(Some years ago you sharing stories about psychical problems was a big part why I finally managed to get help for what was diagnosed as social anxiety, which I suppose had been a problem for me for 15 years. I still have issues, but I managed to pull through and finish my degree, and now have a dayjob I like in a little company with awesome colleagues, so, thank you again.)

All the best of luck with the lump.

So, that voicemail yesterday... I babbled a bit because I didn't want to ask your phone, "are you OK? Need anything?"

But apparently I'm fine asking your LJ.

*laugh* It's okay, dude. And I'll know more come Monday, I hope.

Yeah-- I remember that reaction after I found my lump (which, btw, I named "Fred." Why not?) I didn't want to touch where it was, was certain that people could SEE it if they looked and didn't want them to... it wasn't fun. Um, mine wasn't a cyst, but if it had been I'm certain I would've reacted exactly the same way. When Fred was eventually removed it was a huge relief to have the little bastard gone, partially because in my case the damn lump hurt (which I understand isn't common) and I just... I don't know, I felt like the fricking thing glowed in the dark and could be seen from space, even though it wasn't all that big.

I remember the terror of waiting; I'm glad you won't have to wait long for your mammogram. BTW, the amount of jokes about "don't get your tits in a wringer" that I heard from my medical friends afterwards helped a lot; can't think of mammograms without that phrase occurring in my head to this day. Good luck, and I hope you'll have good news to share this coming week. ^_^ In the meantime, here, have some gifs of a ridiculously cute dog and his boy to make your day better. ^_^

You realize, that she will have to name it "Bob" to go with her naming protocols, right?

This isn't at all relevant, but when I read your post yesterday, my first reaction was to do an immediate self-exam.

Same...ish. I'm not actually educated in how to do one of those properly and I have so little mammary tissue anyway, so it was kind of ??????? But there are so many cancers in various branches of my family to begin with, though not breast cancer in specific, that it was a bit of a moment @_@

I'm in the medium-sized boob department, and I really know that fear. I've had cysts for years, and for a long time, when I was young, they terrified me. I was so sure each time I noticed lump that it was cancer. Gradually I've gotten used to it--mammograms helped, and also the knowledge that moveable lumps are probably not malignant (mine are always moveable).

But I know you'll be scared until you can find out for sure.

I had to keep checking, probably once or twice a day, to make sure it was still there and wasn't a figment of my imagination. That was probably the most I've poked at my boobs. That said I've almost reflexively had to do a self-exam *twice* since your post. Thankfully not found any gravel although there is a bit of tenderness below my right nipple.

I've also had to poke at the lipoma I have in my left side just level with the bottom edge of the bottom rib. Went 'Ow!' and decided that I need to speak to the doc about it again. It's benign but it's always painful to the touch.

In case it helps, I will share my story with you!
Be aware, any reader: This is possibly TMI, please don't read if boobs, tumors, needles, etc... bother you!
When I was 16, I had been schooled into checking for lumps. Well, I found one, one day, and it was one of those things that is not just "ugh I am a teenage girl and I have rumply bumply boobs coming in", it was like a hard marble.
I was promptly given a mammogram, at.. 16.. years.. old. Of course, my breast tissue was so very very dense that they couldn't see anything (my current doctor seemed horrified that they'd even attempt it at 16). Making that small horror story worse is that at 16, the breasts are not exactly as jiggly and easily squish-able as at my current age (31) and the procedure was.. well.. unpleasant. Making it worse was the tech I got was apparently an airhead that day and forgot me in the machine for over 40 minutes. I thought this was normal (I was 16 and everything was honestly Very Scary so I didn't question much) and it only made it all worse.
Then they did an ultrasound. This was more amusing than anything, because it didn't hurt and the worst part was just that it was a bit cold. The ultrasound didn't tell them too much either.
Then my doctor attempted a needle aspiration on the lump (which was pretty much under my nipple.. sigh) and then a biopsy, which he botched terribly and the whole thing was done without numbing any part of my oh so fragile 16 year old nipple (cue laughter and cringing here!). It was immensely not okay. For whatever reason this further told my doctor nothing, and they surgically removed the thing a few days later. It was a benign Fibroadenoma tumor.
Then six months later, it grew back with a vengeance. Great. We were a little fed up with my prior doctor's poor handling of the situation and went to a specialist in a city a few hours away. He advised that it too was a fibroadenoma tumor and that I would probably be prone to them, and to get checked up every 6 months just to keep an eye on the situation. Did I have breast cancer in my family? At the time, the answer was no. He advised that because of the area I live in and the abnormalities of these tumors that I was a bit higher risk but it was good that I didn't have cancer in my family.
Then when I graduated and moved out, mom got aggressive breast cancer.
So .. yeah! There we go. Suddenly my risk went sky high. I am looking into getting the genetic testing done but have been met with a lot of roadblocks. I am supposed to be given an MRI of my breasts every 6 months... so far I am trying to do once a year, because it's expensive to do, and wildly uncomfortable for someone as tall as I am. I have been told that my tissue is still too dense for a mammogram to show a better picture than an MRI. This is somewhat complicated by being small in the chest department, so this sucker of a tumor is obnoxious in proportion compared to the boob. It's hard, kinda pointy, and a real jerk. So far it's behaved itself though as my MRIs come back okay.
And.. yes, its presence is known to me, and has been for years. I am constantly worried about it, in the back of my head. I could have it removed again but 1) $$$$ and 2) It would probably come back. I poke it and sigh and wring my hands, and become angry with it and find it funny and all of the emotions at once. It's become a joke and a concern all at the same time.


It does change things. For me, I am blessed with the genetics, or luck, or chicken voodoo that makes me a twiggy person, and as such I used to eat what-the-fuck-ever at all times because I just wanted to and who cares! Entire packages of cookies? Why not! 5 donuts for dinner? Hell yeah, I'm an adult! Things changed when I saw what mom went through with cancer, and this ever-present lump haunting me. When the C word becomes part of my reality, things got a bit more real, I guess! I took a hard look at things like that and said, yep, this surely is not going to help my odds.

Anyhow, yes, the strange positioning and contemplating different bras and worrying about squishing it (for no reason at all?!) because part of my life for many years, I truly do hear you. It's not weird.. or, if it is weird, it's the same weird as I and many others go through. I sometimes am worried that I will check and there will be MORE lumps or a bigger one, or changed things, and suddenly it will be Cancer Go Time. That's a rough thing, sometimes. But, I can say that it doesn't rule my life, it's just there in the background.

(more hooded merganser icon for you <3)

I couldn't stop poking mine just to confirm that the silly thing was actually there. Since a doctor found it, I was pretty certain she wasn't wrong, but I had to poke it regularly. I made my hubby find it too, just to give me confirmation that I wasn't hallucinating the lump.

It's a very scary experience, even when you have the history of cysts and know that there's a high probability that it's just another cyst. I'm sure you'll be fine.

Not to alarm you, but I had a friend who did have a cancer that developed that quickly, but hers was a strange lobular form of cancer. She did all of the necessary treatments and is back up to full speed now.

I hope that all turns out well for you. Just keep breathing until you have a chance to find out.

Its not as simple as that. First of all some lumps might be swollen lymph node, and it can also be an innocent infection or a worrying sign in itself. BUT, last time i had found a new lump and complain to the doctor, he said that it was a lymph node and it swell perhaps because I was worrying it. I wasn't. But issue is that it could happen.

But another thing is that IF (heaven forbid) there is a real problem, I had this fear. There are many forms and stages of cancer some are relatively easy to deal with with practically guaranteed great outcome and some are, well, more problematic. And the difference might be as simple as all the bad cells contained within the milk ducts (this does NOT show as a lump, but this is the ONLY thing a mammogram would show) and when they spill out. And this is what I was afraid about. That feeling it and squeezing would help them spill out and get into the blood stream. I know it might be a silly fear. But that what was bothering me when I had cancer.

I found my first lump when I was 22. I get them about every four years or so. Each time they're real enough that they send me for mammograms and ultrasounds, and each time they've been benign - so far. Mine stick around for years. This might be the first time in a long time I don't have any lumps lurking around, which probably means I'm due again, unfortunately.