Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The one where I found a lump ...

I was packing the car during my adventures over the summer holidays, when, with my usual grace (ahem), I bumped into the door.
"Fuck!" "Ouch," I said, and massaged the area. And that's when I felt it.
A lump in my left breast.
Quite hard, and quite there. Unmistakable.
I didn't panic. I knew the chances were that the lump would probably be okay.
But it was still a bit of a confronting moment.
As a journalist and former health writer, I'd interviewed loads of women about similar moments. I knew that 9 out of 10 lumps weren't cancerous (Source: The Breast Cancer Network of Australia). But as was the way of the media, the lumps that I'd written about had always been the nasty kinds.
Because of Christmas and New Year, my country GP had shut down for a few weeks. A GP was on call for emergencies.
Was a breast change an emergency? Should I go to the local hospital ER? I wasn't sure. Besides, we had family visiting and things were busy.
In the end, I decided to wait until I could go to my former medical centre in Brisbane, because I figured if there was a problem, I'd need to go to Brisbane anyway.
I couldn't see my usual GP (damn), but a saw another one I liked and had seen before. He recommended a mammogram and ultrasound, and possibly biopsy after that.
He wanted me to get it done while I was in Brisbane, straight away if possible.
A ring-around determined there was no chance of that - everywhere I rang was booked up for ages.
(And again, my mind was put at ease. If it was really serious, I assumed the GP would have organised something faster, right? So everything must be okay...)
Then I found out the Breastscreen Queensland mobile van was in Kingaroy. And I could have a mammogram there in 24 hours.
Except they couldn't do an ultrasound. If I needed one of those, it would have to be done later, in my nearest city, Toowoomba.
(I've since found out, from local ladies who know, that I should have gone to the Wesley clinic in Brisbane. Apparently, women can get everything done, including mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy if required, on the one day. And come out with a diagnosis in the end. But of course, you pay for this convenience and efficiency, ending up several hundred dollars out of pocket. And I probably would have had to wait a while to get in there too.)
Anyway, the Breastscreen Queensland mobile van is a fab service which travels to country Queensland, saving women at least one trip to the city for a mammogram.
Breastscreen usually recommends annual screens for women who have a strong family history of breast cancer, or who have had previous breast cancer. It's also obviously an amazing service for people like me, who are experiencing breast changes. And, women over the age of 40 are offered free screens every two years.
There's always a lot of talk about how painful mammograms are, and to be honest, they're not fun. But honestly, it's a walk in the park compared to many medical tests.
The x-rays are taken standing up so they recommend you wear a two-piece outfit for your modesty for the procedure. (You aren't given a gown at the mobile van).
It's a bit awkward in that you take off your top and bra, and are then manipulated in front of a machine which then basically squeezes your boob as hard as can be so a picture can be taken.
But it's over quickly, and with a minimum of fuss.
Tips? You're not allowed to wear deodorant or perfume, as it can cause confusing images on the mammogram.
I was in and out in about 15 minutes, and the whole thing, from walking into the van to finish took about 30.
I think the worst part of the process was that, my breasts weren't actually examined on the day, and my lump didn't even get a look in. Neither did the referral my doctor gave me.
This is normal practice though.
They only do the mammograms at Breastscreen Queensland. Then, the x-rays are looked at two radiographers, and maybe a third.
They weren't going to do an ultrasound just because my doctor wanted one, but would wait to see what the results indicated.
However, I was told it was common to be recalled for an examination, and not to 'freak out' if that happened to me.
I'll know within two weeks if anything more needs to be done, and the waiting is frustrating.
It's a niggle in the back of my mind, and I just want to know it's fine. And if it's not, I want it to be treated.
As soon as possible thank you very much.

To find out about Breastscreen Queensland and the mobile van, phone 13 20 50. Check with your GP about similar services in other states. 


Michele @ The Hills are Alive said...

Have been through something similar a few years back and results came back as yes a lump there but 'insignificant breast tissue' my husb laughed and said 'nothing insignificant about those breasts of yours darling' funny guy! Not fun testing and waiting but better to know than not. Thinking of you and hoping for good news x

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Thanks for the reminder Bronnie! This is my second reminder this month and I can take a hint!

Char said...

You know all the data - most lumps turn out to be benign. Just hold onto that thought while you're waiting.

I had to go through all this a few years back. I found a lump in my breast when I was pregnant. I had to go to the RBH for further tests - no problems. Then a few years later I found another and was sent to the Wesley. I had everything done in a mornings. Breast exam, mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy. By that evening I had the results and it was all fine. Some of us just have lumpy breasts.

traceyb65 said...

after my first mammogram, all i can say is i now know how dough feels being kneaded and rolled! all clear here and a good chance you'll be all clear too … and yes Char, some of us do have lumpy breasts ;) xt

Janet Camilleri said...

Hope you get a good result. Hubby finally had a skin check and is getting a skin cancer removed from his back next week - so glad he actually got checked!

Jacqui Honeywood said...

thanks for sharing this lovely and here's hoping that your results quell that niggling xx

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone. I am still waiting for my results, which I am sure is a good sign!

Unknown said...

This post came up on my FB memories so I thought I should update. I did have to go to Toowoomba for an exam, but they still wouldn't do an ultrasound, even though my doctor had recommended one. My other local doctor said she could order one if I was worried but she examined me again, and I'm trusting her. Since then I've been through another Breastscreen ulstrasound and more lumps. I have been told private ulstrasounds are more accurate - they take more slices in more detail. My doctor says I have 'lumpy breasts' and we just need to examine them more regularly. I'm really out on the whole Breastscreen thing. Obviously it's a great service, but as someone with lumps - in different places - I do worry that they are dismissed, and that the Breastscreen service does not even include an examination, or take notice of a doctor's recommendation. I drove all that way to Toowoomba, and was unaware there was a Patient Transport Service allowance at the time, having newly moved to the country. I could have had my GP do it. I guess the answer is constant vigilance, and if you are really worried, going private. Which is sad. Anyone with an obvious problem will be found by the free Breascreen Service but anyone with something a bit more subtle would need something a bit more personalised I'm afraid. I have known women like that, who have been told: 'It won't be cancer, but let's rule it out.' It was.