I expected the Christmas holiday to consist of coursework writing, reading and consuming all the food and drink in sight, definitely not finding a lump in my boob. My initial reaction was to panic, which I guess was to be expected. The thought of having anything abnormal growing in my body was a frightening thought to comprehend. I was lucky that someone else noticed it; I’d never checked my boobs before so may not have found it until much later.
So, I rang the doctors thinking I’d be met with the usual two to three-week appointment wait time, especially with the situation falling in the awkward Christmas public holiday period – but to my relief, I was given an appointment the next day. I was incredibly anxious, inevitably thinking the worst and imagining various more than terrible situations. I knew that breast cancer rates in young women are much lower; however, my mind was preoccupied by the lump making its home in my left breast. The more I thought about it and the more I touched it, the more I could feel it and started to think it was something serious. This first appointment was both reassuring and not at the same time. I was told that it was a benign lump called a fibroadenoma that was not harmful, and importantly, not cancerous. I went home, however, feeling a bit dissatisfied and my brain raced around questions about scans, would it go away on its own, and, the most pressing, would this make me more likely to have breast cancer in the future?
After a few weeks of pondering on these questions, I decided to make a second appointment. I was hesitant to at first; I felt like I was wasting precious NHS time because I’d already had confirmation that it was nothing to worry about. I didn’t think I was worthy of another appointment or wanted to be thought of as undermining a doctor. However, I’m so glad that I listened to the people who care about me and did go back for a second opinion because she was a lot more thorough and reassuring. She told me about fibroadenomas potentially changing in size and that because the lump was already pretty big, I can have it removed. Now I’m waiting for my hospital referral and considering having the procedure done, that is performed under general anaesthetic, as recently it has been feeling sore and inflamed, especially after a shower. If I hadn’t seen another doctor, I may not have been offered the chance to have it removed, so it was definitely worth the commute back home (I never changed doctors when I came to uni…but that’s a story for another time.) Since then I’ve been reading about the different causes of fibroadenomas that are particularly common in young women in their twenties. Apparently, they can be down to an increased sensitivity to oestrogen. Interestingly, my contraceptive pill has a high amount of oestrogen in, therefore it may be part of the cause; however, generally, what causes fibroadenomas is not really known.
Since finding the lump, especially as it was by accident, I’ve been checking my boobs and monitoring any change in the lump already there. Breast Cancer Now and CoppaFeel UK both have how-to guides that I recommend looking at if you find the idea of feeling your own boobs a bit daunting or strange. CoppaFeel even offers boob check reminders through text and email, meaning there’s no excuse not to take a few minutes to give yourself a feel.
Make checking your boobs a part of your self-care routine as knowing your boobs, what’s normal and what needs to be checked out, could save your life.