Nowadays, a monthly breast self-exam is viewed as not mandatory. However, doctors still advise their patients to be more familiar with the way their breasts feel (say that they massage their breasts in the shower every day) to be able to spot any changes. In reality, around 40percent of patients suffering from breast cancer find their tumors by themselves.
“I educate patients on simple rules. Your breasts are yours and since you’re the only person with two hands, so you need to be familiar with the ladies,” Julia White, MD director of the department of breast radiation oncology in The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center informs the Health. “If you know your breasts and notice something is out of the ordinary and it persists, then go get it checked out.”
She’s not talking just regarding a lump lump in your breast. Also, you should check for crusting around the nipple area, or bloody nipple drainage the doctor. White says, especially when it’s only one side. Other signs may include a change in shape of your breasts that isn’t explained due to pregnancy, your period or breastfeeding; stretched or flattened nipple indentation on your breast that isn’t gone when you remove your bra; constant pain on one side, skin that is changing color quickly and a lump under your armpit.
Nine women with breast cancer discuss the signs which led to them visiting an office of a doctor, which eventually led to the diagnosis. All of them have one thing in common: trust your instincts, and have any signs of trouble checked. These are their tales.
“I felt what was like a frozen pea inside my armpit’
“During an annual breast self-exam I noticed a tiny lump. It wasn’t painful, but it was a bit mobile and looked like the frozen pea. It was in my armpit. This was at first odd but then I realized that the breast tissue expands to your armpit. This wasn’t in accordance with the changes to my breasts that I experienced during my cycle of menstrual flow.
“I did my best to remain cool, even though, inside I knew exactly that something was wrong. Then I called my ob-gyn and she offered to look at my next annual examination that was some months from now. After no changes in one week, I contacted the breast clinic at the local hospital and asked to be examined. After undergoing biopsies and imaging were taken, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 24.
“From my experience, I hope that other women will learn that you need to monitor changes in your body, but it’s futile if you’re afraid to speak up about them. Women need to have the confidence to speak up.”
–Brittany Whitman Cleveland Educational Ambassador of Bright Pink
“I suffered from fevers and difficulties breastfeeding’
“I was diagnosed incorrectly as having Mastitis two times due to high fevers and difficulty breastfeeding. It was later discovered to be cancerous. The tumors were blocking the milk ducts. The diagnosis came in stage 3. when I was 32, just five weeks before I gave birth to my first child. It wasn’t a sign of mastitos at all. A lot of people said to me that ‘100%’ that it was nothing. Nobody thought of an alternative until the multiple attempts of treatment for mastitis did not work.”
Melissa Thompson, health policy advocate from Stamford, Connecticut (You can find out more about the story on her website.)
“My breasts looked a bit pink’
“In the shower, one day I noticed a light pinkness in my breasts under my nipple region it was more like a light sunburn than an bump. I was sure something was wrong. I asked my ob-gyn to examine my bra at my bra, and he told me they weren’t worried since it wasn’t noticeable. He said my bra was too tight, and that I was required to shop in search of a brand new pair. So I did exactly that.
Also Read: How to use castor oil as a hair treatment
“Over time, the pinky area grew harder and it was tender to the contact. My OB-GYN stated that he was not concerned. The pain eventually increased within my breasts within my lower back. My ob-gyn informed me that breast cancer doesn’t cause pain, therefore I didn’t need to be worried regarding it. He recommended an mammogram to make me feel more comfortable. The mammogram as well as all other tests were normal.
“Weeks passed by as my back started to get hurt. Then, my GP advised me to have arthritis, I was referred to Physical therapy. I visited an expert in breast surgery. He informed me that I was suffering from mastitis and prescribed me antibiotics. The treatment didn’t do much. After seeing his breast doctor, the surgeon had me send an image of my breast to the highest surgeon, who requested the diagnostic mammogram. It includes a sonogram as well as an examination. The diagnosis I received was Stage IV inflammatory breast cancer in my breast, bones and in my liver.
“Women know their bodies the best. If you feel or see differently, there is something wrong. You have to be the advocate for yourself. I was aware that there was something wrong, and I suspected that things were getting worse however, the doctors were saying not to be concerned I decided to ignore my instincts. My cancer took me 11 months to be diagnosed and then allowed it to grow into my liver and bones. Now, my cancer is inoperable.”
–Jennifer Cordts, stay-at-home mom, Dallas
You’ve found a lump in your Breast. What Now?
“It felt like it was like there were a few marbles inside my breast’
“I was born with thick, fibrous breasts and, even on a day when I was feeling good my breasts were like a frozen peas bag. I was getting the Bright Pink Breast Health reminder texts to examine my breasts, and I knew the way the breasts of my body felt. One day, however, I felt an area of lumpy feeling in my left breast close to my nipple. It appeared to be about the size of a gumball or marble. The lump was distinct. It was a bit hard, but it did have an elasticity to it.
“From my first moment of feeling the lump I knew that I was suffering from an aggressive form of breast cancer. I was in the hospital that day for consultation with my Gynecologist who recommended a mammogram later in the afternoon. Then I was given a needle biopsy, however the tests came back positive. I have never felt satisfied or happy with the result.
“At a later breast check, I felt the lump had grown, so I insisted my gynecologist help me find a surgeon to remove the lump. It was removed and I was told it was stage 2, aggressive triple negative breast cancer. I also discovered I was BRCA-1 positive, meaning I had the breast cancer gene. I can’t stress it enough, listen to your body!”
Erin Scheithe DC Education Coordinator for Bright Pink, Washington, D.C.
“I discovered a lump”
“I first noticed my lump while getting dressed. I waited for several weeks the day after my next period to check whether there was any change in the size. If that didn’t happen I scheduled an annual mammogram. Because my mother died in 1997 from cancer and I underwent my first mammogram when I was 35. My radiologist reviewed my scans, and observed a change in the right side of my breast. The biopsy confirmed the presence of pre-cancerous cancerous cells (stage Zero). She requested an MRI which revealed additional areas that were of concern. Following further biopsies my diagnosis was stage 1 triple positive infiltrative breast cancer at 37. After radiation, chemotherapy and many procedures, I’ve been cancer free for the past six years.”
Steve Woods professorial lecturer of American University, Washington, D.C.
“My dog discovered my cancer’
“I was just going to my ob-gyn doctor for my annual breast examination, and was given the “all-good” report.’ Then, my adorable dog Zoe got up on my shoulders and began pawing at one particular area on my chest. The alarms went off inside my mind, alerting me to pay close attention. It was like watching a slow motion film. I let her go and I came across the lump, which was a small round BB-sized. Following a mammogram that did not reveal any evidence or anything, and a sonogram that revealed the lump I received a diagnosis of Stage two breast cancer. It’s crucial to pay attention to what our bodies are transmitting to us.”