Thanking my lucky stars…
So this is a slightly more serious post than usual but the response that I had to the post that I wrote here barely a year ago, and which was on exactly the same topic of being referred to the breast clinic, was so overwhelming that I felt that it was worth highlighting it again.
Back in late July 2017, I found three breast lumps – all of which turned out to be nothing more sinister than cysts. The time in between seeing the GP, and waiting for the appointment at the breast clinic, was excruciating. The not knowing is awful but oddly, as soon as I walked into the breast clinic, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. There was such a calm assurance about everyone who I came across that I felt that even if the news was not good, I would at least be in safe hands.
Fast forward to the end of August this year and oh hello again – another lump. I found this one as I sat up in bed one morning and moved my pyjama top. It was three days before our son’s GCSE results and my husband and our son were setting off early for a two day gliding trip. I said nothing and instead arranged to see the GP later that day.
Clinically the GP was very good. She examined under my armpits for any sign of lumps (note for future reference, always attend to armpits before going to the GP for an issue of this nature). She then examined my “normal” side first to see what the tissue felt like, only to ask me whether the lump which she had just found, was usually there. Fabulous. That was one lump on each side then. Well we’re always after a balance in life.
As I sat down after the examination, she reassured me that the signs were good. She said that it didn’t feel as if the lump(s) were attached to anything and that I would be referred to the breast clinic to check because “it is quite likely that it could be cancer.” OK, so I wasn’t expecting that.
Having been through all of this barely a year before, I was fairly confident that everything would be OK. I’d had a mammogram and nothing had been detected and I thought that I would be exceptionally unlucky to have cancer in both breasts. Then again it could have been the case that one lump was sinister and one wasn’t – but they felt the same so I thought that was unlikely. But again, you just don’t know.
Fast forward 2 days and the boys returned from their trip. I decided not to say anything until after the GCSE results came out the following day. I didn’t want my husband to be distracted by what may, or may not, have been going on with me, when it should have been all about Freddie and his results. But by that time I’d had an appointment come through to visit the breast clinic the following Wednesday – only 8 days after I’d first seen the GP. I say “only” because it’s well within the two week period in which you’re meant to be seen but it can seem like such a long time – especially the first time around.
So the point of this extremely long post is to explain how things worked for me at the appointment at the breast clinic. I think that I would have found it helpful to have known what to expect – so hopefully this may be of help to someone else.
So firstly, although my letter said to allow three hours, again I was in an out and in an hour, which was great. The appointment is a four stage process consisting of:
- An initial examination by the Doctor. Also the lumps are marked with a felt pen so that the mammogram can be performed;
- The mammogram itself (be prepared to be a contortionist);
- An ultrasound (just like when you’re pregnant but not on your belly);
- A chat with the Consultant for a summary of what has been found.
The results from each stage of the process are forwarded to the next department before you arrive. So, by the time I got to the ultra sound department, they had received the results of the mammogram. Therefore they knew that they were looking for cysts. And boy did they find them!
The thing is – and I just wish that I’d known this last year – if you scan most women of my age, you will find cysts in there. It’s just a question of how big they are.
Anyway – and this was the best bit – the Doctor asked me if I would like for the cysts to be drained there and then. Did I ever? So I watched on the screen as a needle was inserted and the fluid drained off. And right before my eyes they collapsed into nothingness.
By the time that I saw the Consultant she was really happy with everything. Being a typical female I was apologising for wasting their time. The team couldn’t have been more helpful though. The cysts may return but they may not and whilst they can’t keep on giving me a mammogram every year, they can ultrasound any lumps that may appear and then take it from there. So I was told that I MUST get ANY lump investigated, however it feels.
So what words of wisdom can I pass on having been through the same experience twice in two years?
- As soon as you find anything strange, go and get it checked out. And if you’re reading this thinking that there might be something lurking there which you think you ought to have had checked but haven’t – go and get that checked out too;
- Time can go soooo slowly when waiting for an appointment to come through. It’s hard but try to keep distracted and on the move. Quiet moments aren’t always good;
- Feel reassured that most women aged 45 and above will have cysts present in their breasts so it is possible to have lumps which can be easily accounted for;
- Mammograms can be a little uncomfortable – so you may have to grit your teeth. You may also shed half of your skin on the plate where your boob rests!
- For me there was something about the doctors and nurses that I came across in the breast clinic that gave me absolute confidence;
- Be reassured that even if you’re not great at examining yourself, women are, apparently, quite intuitive and sense when something isn’t quite right. But do try to remember to examine yourself if you can.
I really hope that this has helped someone, even just a little. And if you want to talk, you know where to find me. Beth x