I’m under 40 with a family history of breast cancer on my father’s side. In the middle of this Covid-19 outbreak, I found a lump halfway between my breast and armpit. I was kind of in denial for a week, but then it hit me. This isn’t going away. I need a mammogram stat.
Why I had to get a Mammogram Early
I’ve been wearing a lot of sports bras during the downtime at home. Sports bras hit a little higher in the armpit area than a typical bra, and three weeks ago I noticed it was kind of itchy in one area. I changed and went about my day.
Later while showering I noticed a lump under the skin in that same area that was irritated. My first thought was hmm I must have gotten bit by something. After all, I had been outside working in our garden earlier that day.
Over the next few days, I monitored the lump and noticed it would radiate heat towards my armpit when irritated. I honestly began to panic.
Like any normal person – I took to the internet searching terms like “what does breast cancer look like” and “signs of breast cancer.” Wowza that brings a lot of anxiety. I’ve never had a lump in my breasts, ever.
The warning signs that concerned me were obviously a new lump, unexplained irritation and redness, and the heat in that area. After a week of zero changes, I told my husband. He encouraged me to call my OB-GYN.
The next day I was on the phone with the office scheduling an appointment. I was concerned – due to the pandemic – they were limiting visits, but thankfully they take these sorts of things seriously and I was able to get in within a week.
I love my OB – she’s delivered both of our sons and takes a general interest in her patients. She had me at ease fairly quickly. But she could not only feel the lump but see it too. She said that was odd. I asked for details. Typically a breast lump is in the tissue. This was more surface level (hence being visible).
She suggested a mammogram and possible sonogram at their affiliate office and off I went with a referral. I called the office that day and wouldn’t you know they JUST had a cancellation and could take me within a few hours of calling. God knew I needed some anxiety relief for sure!
Honestly, it’s not bad at all. I remember hearing all sorts of stories about how mammograms sucked, but really it’s a quick squeeze and the slight pain is totally manageable. I have a low pain tolerance so that’s saying something!
The tech told me I would not leave the office without seeing the doctor and getting my results. That was another surprise. I remember hearing people had to wait a while for results, but these were instant.
Remember how I mentioned my OB said “possible sonogram?” Well, the tech came back in and said okay we’re moving you to the sonogram room. I had a lump in my throat. That meant they saw something on my mammogram screening.
If you’ve ever had a sonogram then you know this is a simple procedure. The tech squirts some warm gel on you and she glides the device all around. The screen was pointed towards me so I was able to see right along with the tech.
She did both breasts (so did the mammogram tech) that way they could compare the two since this was my first time getting breast images done. As you can see by the image below they found a spot on both breasts.
The left has a point to it. That’s the one I could feel during my self breast exam. The doctor believes they are both cysts, which apparently are very common in women ages 35 and up (who have not gone through menopause yet).
She said breast cysts should go away on their own, however, the one that is “raised” seems to be irritated and may try to surface which is less common. I reiterated that I have a breast cancer history in the family and asked if I should be concerned about this, and even asked what her next steps would be if she were in my position.
We made a follow-up appointment for 3 months. My hope is these cysts go away on their own, and of course that nothing cancerous forms.
How to do a Self Breast Exam
I say all of this as a reminder that you are never too young to start self breast exams. I’ve had more than one friend in their 30’s get breast cancer.
I highly recommend self checking once a month. Set a reminder in your calendar, phone, or even Alexa device to remind you once a month. And follow the do it yourself breast exam steps below. It’s important to not only feel the breast area but up to the armpit as well.
If you find a lump or any other concerning changes in your breasts. Act fast. I always follow the rule, better safe than sorry. Make an appointment that way if it is cancer, you can act quickly before it spreads.