My breast cancer pet peeve of the day is the word “lump” … cause, well, it doesn’t FEEL like a lump! The word lump actually is misleading and causes too many women to NOT get something checked out. It is part of why I waited a week (fortunately, I only waited a week).
So, first and foremost – get to know YOUR breasts. I checked mine every time I got in the shower. I suds up with soap and feel around and inspect. I also look at myself in the mirror and look down when I dry myself off. So, when something changed, I noticed!
Many women have lumpy breasts. Some of the normal tissue in your breast feels lumpy. It isn’t the normal lumpiness that is the problem – it is the change that is problem. The first I heard of nipple retraction was AFTER I was diagnosed. What I noticed was a hard spot – an area that felt firmer than normal – which I initially associated with what I thought might be a muscle strain, but when it didn’t away I got it checked out.
Above is a MRI image of my left breast. It shows the two masses. The upper is a known malignancy – this is the one I felt and it is my largest mass (depending on the scan measuring somewhere between 3 and 4.7 cm in its widest dimension – MRI measured it smaller than ultrasound but they won’t really know until they take it out and do a full biopsy on it). It is not a regular shape – it is not this nice round “lump” – rather it is an irregularly shaped mass (it doesn’t look 3 cm in this angle, they measure it in three dimensions based upon the largest size). The bottom mass shows up on MRI only (I’m getting it biopsied tomorrow) – it is suspected to be cancer only because I already have a known malignancy. The point I wanted to make on this picture was the irregular shape of my breast. I can visually see when I look in the mirror, while looking down that my left breast isn’t smoothly curved. This is a sign that something is WRONG!
BTW – I think it is way cool that I can just sign a form and they mail me CDs with all the images from scans that have been taken. I find the MRI images particularly interesting. I get a full copy of the radiologist’s report, so I know which images are most interesting (there are 15,000 images from a standard diagnostic MRI).
So, if you don’t do annual mammograms (and even if you do), it doesn’t hurt to just ‘cop a feel’ and check out your breast EVERY time you hop in the shower …
OK… done with the public service announcement for the day. Time for a bike ride!