I Found a Lump…Here’s What Happened

by Kim on December 12, 2012

Let me preface this by saying that I do NOT have cancer. (Hallelujah!) But a week ago, I wasn’t so sure.

There are lots of crazy things that can happen to your girls when you’re breastfeeding (I’ll spare you the details), so I wasn’t even remotely alarmed when I found a hard, pea-sized lump in my right breast about two months ago. I’d had a few clogged ducts before, and this was definitely different, but I still assumed it was just some random milk backup or swollen…something…whatever. A non-issue, anyway.

Then, all of a sudden, the lump started hurting. It felt like a stinging sensation, right there where it was, and the whole area around it started getting kind of achy, which made me wonder if it was getting infected. So I decided to make a doctor’s appointment, in case I needed antibiotics.

Part I: To the Doc

The doctor (one of the obstetricians I saw during my pregnancy) confirmed that it was not a clogged duct, but it wasn’t an infection either.

And suddenly, he was asking me if I had any “family history.” He didn’t even have to say the word cancer.

I said I didn’t, and he assured me that, in that case, my risk level was really really low, when combined with my age and the fact that I was actively breastfeeding. He also said that the lump was moveable and had smooth edges-apparently, both good signs.

But, he still wanted to send me downtown to the imaging center for an ultrasound (at my age, they don’t even do mammograms for this kind of thing).

Ok.

Part II: Ultrasound

So a few days later, I was in an ultrasound room downtown, wearing a goofy poncho instead of the open-back robes I was used to (huge improvement, by the way). I watched the screen, thinking about how the last time I’d done this, I’d been looking at a baby. This time, I was looking at mostly whiteness, until the technician zeroed in on a weird black shaft. (I thought it would be a perfect circle, but apparently lumps sometimes cast shadows on ultrasounds.) She took a bazillion pictures, not saying much of anything the whole time (which just made me wonder-can she tell already?? And she’s afraid to say anything??). Eventually, she wrapped it up and went to show the radiologist.

Approximately 13 seconds later, the radiologist showed up. I wasn’t sure how he’d even had time to look at the pictures, much less make a decision about them (my doctor had warned me that they might try to blow this off because I was breastfeeding, and that I wasn’t supposed to “let them”…like I was in full control of what was happening).

So I was expecting a quick dismissal from the radiologist, but instead, he told me he still had no answers for me-the lump didn’t fit nicely into any of their defined parameters (or something)-and he was recommending that I come back for a biopsy.

My initial reaction was annoyance. Come back again? Arrange childcare again? (If I would have known then how horrible the procedure would end up being, I’d be even more upset. But he used the words “minimally invasive” and talked about it like it was a finger prick.)

At that point, I was still pretty sure that this was a lot of fuss over nothing. I was almost embarrassed, sitting there. I mean, a 27-year-old? Getting a breast biopsy??

But you don’t mess around with the big C. (I still hadn’t heard anyone actually say the word, I noticed.)

Part III: Creepy Meeting Room

So then, I was carted off to a tiny little meeting room to talk to a nurse about the procedure. Looking around the room, I saw pamphlets about breast cancer and multiple fake flower arrangements, and I realized that lots of women had probably gotten horrible, horrible news in here. It was very unnerving.

The nurse asked if I had anyone with me, and I thought, “Why, should I??”

She explained what would happen the day of the procedure-there would be numbing, a needle, and later, some pain and bruising. Oh, and I’d need to pump and dump for 24 hours after the biopsy.

Well, great. Anyone who’s ever P&D’d before knows how irritating it is-to have this super precious milk (liquid gold, they call it) and spend all that time getting it out, just to dump it down a drain. I was not thrilled.

Then she mentioned results. She talked about the very likely possibility that it was benign and the very small possibility that the results would be unclear. “And if it ends up being something that needs extra attention,” she said, “you have a great team of people here who will take good care of you.” I remember being struck by that-by how gently she was treating me, like I was a cancer patient already.

The first available time they had for the biopsy was just a little under a week away-a long time to wonder if you have cancer, no matter how confident you are that the results will be good ones.

Part IV: Biopsy

I wasn’t nervous on the day of the biopsy. (This was why my mom visited last week, by the way, to watch Mase on that day. It was also why I got the flowers from Brent.) I was mostly curious, asking the nurse tons of questions about what she was seeing on the ultrasound, how the procedure worked, and how they’d get the results. I was so curious that I’d even planned to watch the whole thing on the ultrasound screen. But once things got underway and I realized how gross it was (the needle was spring-loaded or something-it made a loud click sound and then shot through the tissue on the screen-yuuuck), I had to close my eyes. (And the couple things I did see still haunt my brain!)

After, they reminded me to wear a sports bra for a few days, take Tylenol, and avoid exercise. Originally, I’d thought the exercise-skipping was going to feel like an unnecessary overprecaution, but I was so sore by that afternoon that I couldn’t imagine doing anything that might make my chest move. So, I fell off the wagon for a few days, which was fine.

Part V: Recovery and Waiting

The recovery was more brutal than I expected, mostly because of the pumping. Imagine being sore and then taking a suction cup and yanking on the area every few hours. For awhile, I was getting regular milk out of one side and strawberry milk out of the other-if I was a gaggy person, I would have been gagging all day (and if you’re a gaggy person, I’m sorry you had to read that).

The wait for the results was also pretty brutal. I tried not to think about it, but having the biopsy made everything start to feel a lot more real. Suddenly I was having the “what if” thoughts, although they didn’t really go much further than, “what if I have to have surgery over Christmas?”

First thing Monday morning, 4 days after the biopsy (and way earlier than expected, given the weekend in there), I got the call with the results. They were “happy to inform me” that the lump was benign-just some kind of adenoma related to breastfeeding. Woohoo! The radiologist thought it would go away once I stopped breastfeeding, but asked that I come in for another ultrasound at that time to make sure.

So, all’s well and everything’s back to normal. I ran a few miles on Monday and did TurboFire yesterday, and felt fine both times. I’m still a little swollen and bruised, and still get nervous when nursing on that side (the kid has teeth now, for crying out loud!), but it’s a small price to pay for the comfort of knowing.

So what?

Why did I tell you this long, boring, picture-less story? I guess the primary reason is that this is my blog and the whole point is to yammer about myself all day (right??). And I did think about including some pictures, but of what, boobs? An ultrasound screen? A carton of strawberry milk?

But the other reason is that I, personally, didn’t realize how common benign breast lumps are. Since getting this biopsy, I’ve been surprised by multiple blasé accounts of “oh, yeah, that’s happened to me a couple times.” We all have it ingrained in our brains that “lump”=BAD. And of course, lumps can be very very bad, but most of the time, they’re not. Even the majority of lumps that are biopsied come back benign, despite what TV and movies would have us believe.

The word “lump” has 4 letters, but it doesn’t have to be a 4-lettered word.

If you’ve had a similar experience, or know someone else who has, I’d love to hear about it!

strawberry milk

 

signature_thumb.png

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria July 31, 2016 at 7:04 am

Thank you for writing this “long boring story”. Believe it or not it was VERY impactful to me and let me tell you why…post baby (#3) I’ve been really struggling with postpartum anxiety (like us moms need one more thing, right?!) and it’s come in the form of OCD about terminal illness. Every week it’s a new disease that I’m SURE I have so I obsess over symptoms and Google. Well, we all know Google can have you dead in 10 seconds so it only heightened my anxiety but I was an addict and kept doing it. I’ve gotten much better since seeking help but still struggle, so this week it’s breast cancer. In all my googling NEVER have I read a story about it ending up (even though symptoms were there) being benign & understandable because people don’t usually write about it unless it’s something serious, so thank you that you did! Postpartum anxiety is a down right terrible thing and wish I didn’t even struggle with it but I do, and I’m glad I found this post when I did.
Keep writing this stuff! There are women who need it!

Reply

Stefanie February 10, 2016 at 5:11 pm

When you stopped breastfeeding did it go away like they said it should? I’m getting a pea sized lump looked at Tuesday. BFing a 5mo old little girl. But the hard lump it right up against my chest and doesn’t get warm or sore (unless I poke at it). All the stories I’ve found on the web they all mention lump locations (due to plunged ducts) more toward the nipple. Thanks for sharing your story.

Reply

Kim February 10, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Yes, it went away on its own! Everyone assured me it was very common during breastfeeding. Still good to get it checked, of course. Hope yours is nothing!!

Reply

Erin May 6, 2016 at 9:08 pm

Kim/Stephanie , I have the same pea ( was grape) size lump that appeared out of no where. Dr is sending me for ultrasound but she too said it was strange because it felt like it was attached to my chest/ribs on the bra line. Does that sound like what you had. I dont want to dismiss this but my gut is telling me it’s a blocked duct or something similar. My little one also just had a cold and was having trouble nursing for a few days. Thank you both for posting your experience. It makes me feel less nervous that this is pretty common.

Reply

Chelsey July 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

Ive recently had an unexpected lump found also. Im 25, mother of two young boys (1&4) and also preparing for a cross country move. Stressful time in our lives and I felt like my dr dropped a bomb on me! My u/s is next week and I’ve been pretty panicked. Reading your story has eased my mind. So thank you! Im taking this lump head on as a precaution, but am optimistic my results will be benign also. Thanks for sharing your story!

Reply

Kim July 17, 2014 at 9:49 am

I hope it’s nothing Chelsey! Good luck with the ultrasound!

Reply

Chelsey July 17, 2014 at 9:54 am

Thanks! Staying positive, but as you know, its unnerving. Hence my google searching it and finding your blog haha. Ive heard this type of thing is common and your story gave me hope! :)

Glad yours was benign! Looking forward to reading more on your blog also!!

Reply

Suzanne December 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm

So glad everything is ok and that it wasn’t cancerous! Hopefully your post will inspire other younger women our age to be sure they are doing self exams.

Reply

Bobby December 15, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I’ve had a couple of similar scares.
When I was 18, I had my wisdom teeth out. Prior to the surgery, I finally stopped being “a guy” and asked about the roughly acorn-sized lump in my cheek that had been there for 10 years or so. I wasn’t so worried about that lump as it obviously wasn’t hurting me that quickly. Luckily, the oral surgeon wasn’t too worried about how it looked, and the biopsy came back benign.
Over the next few months, a golf-ball-sized lump formed in my neck. Not wanting to risk things, I was a bit more eager to bring this one to the attention of my doctor. On the Friday before Spring Break of my freshman year, I had surgery to remove the lump. This time around, the doctor was a bit more concerned about the way it looked. Luckily, the biopsies came back clear.
It’s a scary thing, even when the doctor thinks everything is fine. I’m glad to hear that your ended up being nothing to worry about as well.

Reply

Kim December 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Oh, wow. Thanks for sharing, Bobby, and glad everything turned out ok for you.

Reply

Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome December 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Oh my how scary! I have heard that is very common as well. My mom has had a similar experience which makes me extra cautious about checking myself. So glad it wasn’t anything serious and at least now you know :-)

Reply

Jenna December 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience! When I had a breast reduction I had two fibrous benign tumors removed that I didn’t even know existed!! It can definitely be scary, but so important just to be proactive! Way to go and so happy for ur good news!! Spa <3

Reply

Kim December 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Thanks for sharing that, Jenna! This really is more common than I thought!

Reply

Karey @ Nutty About Health December 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Scary story, but happy ending. Glad you’re ok & it wasn’t the big “C”. My grandmother passed from that, so it’s a bit scary for me. I haven’t had anything to be worried about as of yet though, thank goodness.

Reply

Kim December 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. Good that you’re keeping an eye on it! The statistics about breast cancer these days are so scary. :(

Reply

Lauren December 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Hi! When I was 21 I found a big lump in my breast. I was freaking out and then you google (bad idea) and read stories of the rare cases of breast cancer at young age etc. I saw my doctor who said it felt okay and referred me to a specialist. They did the biopsy just to be safe but it turned out to be just a cyst kind of, a lump of abnormal cells not at all related to cancer or increasing my risk or anything. I ended up getting surgery to get it removed because she said it could get bigger, and then it could be visible when I wear a bikini top or something. It freaked me out anyways so I got it removed and the scar has pretty much disappeared. Definitely super scary though because we always equate a lump with cancer as women! I’m glad I check myself out in the shower every once in a while.

Reply

Kim December 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Thanks for sharing Lauren! I know, the word “lump” is always so scary to us! Glad you’re ok.

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: