I know cancer…

DYKC is kicking off the launch of our new website with our first “I know cancer” spotlight. FibroadeNOma from Florida connected with us via Twitter and was willing to share what we’re calling her “I (almost) know cancer” moment.

I know cancer…because I found a lump

I was supposed to go to the gynecologist for my yearly exam in late July, but conflicts with work and summer vacation prompted me to cancel my appointment. I figured that I could reschedule for early fall, when things settled down a bit. Things never settled down, though, and by the time I remembered to reschedule, it was the middle of October. I finally made my appointment, and went in on a Thursday. My exam was routine until my GYN began my breast exam. While examining my right breast, she made a “Hmm…” face – like, what’s this? She continued to examine the same spot and finally, after what felt like a lifetime, she said “Here, feel this…feel anything?” After a minute, I did feel something – something I’d failed to notice during self-exams. It was what felt like a golf-ball sized lump. How had I missed this?!

My doctor reassured me that it was “probably nothing” but asked me how I felt about having a mammogram. I was in my early twenties! I didn’t plan on having a mammogram until I was at least forty. The next half an hour was a whirlwind: my doctor scheduled a mammogram, gave me information about how a mammogram works and how to prepare and all of a sudden I was out in the parking lot, all alone. I immediately called my parents, my best friend (who knows cancer because breast cancer runs in her family) and then my boyfriend. I was worried, but just a little bit. I figured that, if this lump were really something bad, I would have found it during my self-breast exams, or that my doctor would have known right away.

Two weeks later, I went for my first mammogram. Let’s be honest: mammograms are awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful. If you’re short, you have to maneuver yourself so that the technician can get a decent picture. This may involve standing on a step-stool and having two additional technicians “handle you” so that the picture turns out right. It took about ten tries before the radiologist reviewing the pictures was satisfied. Next I had a sonogram (followed by a conversation with my Mom that went something like “No, Mom, I’m not pregnant, they did a sonogram of my chest…yes, they do sonograms for other people, too, not just pregnant women!”) which revealed the lump itself: it was almost perfectly round, and the size of a golf ball. It was very evident on the sonogram. The radiologist reviewed the pictures and recommended that I get in touch with a surgeon to discuss my options. Because the lump appeared to be smooth, and did not have rough-looking edges, the radiologist assumed that it was benign (not cancerous) but told me that they couldn’t be sure until they did a biopsy.

Fast forward to the end of November: after a few meetings with my surgeon and another mammogram, I decided to have the lump surgically removed, followed by a biopsy. I didn’t want to endure a painful biopsy if I already knew that I wanted the lump removed. In January, I had the lump excised, which took about an hour and a half. It was pretty painful, but well worth it. I didn’t want anything potentially harmful inside my body! About two weeks after my surgery, the surgeon’s office called to report that the lump was a benign fibroadenoma, which is a fairly common occurrence in women in their late twenties and thirties. While my lump was benign, it forced me to make some lifestyle changes that will, I hope, prevent the eventual onset of breast cancer, as my doctor predicts that I am now 50% more likely to develop cancer due to the presence of my fibroadenoma. “Almost” knowing cancer has given me the opportunity to share what I know about breast health with the women in my life, including friends, family, and co-workers. That makes me feel good; knowing that I may be able to encourage other women to do self-breast exams. I have a history of breast cancer in my family (my grandmother died as a result of breast cancer in the early 1990s) and I know far too many women who have battled the disease. I don’t want to be a statistic.

Note: comments are open, but DYKC has the right to remove any offensive comments. We hope you’ll share your thoughts on this “I (almost) knew cancer…” spotlight!

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