During a not-so routine breast check, mother of two Danielle Colley found a breast lump. She shares her experience of doctors’ appointments, mammograms and ultrasounds, and her new-found respect for self breast examinations.
I didn’t used to check my breasts as regularly as I should have. When I did, if I’m being 100% honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. My breasts are naturally quite lumpy so when I found something that felt like a big, squishy knot I didn’t think too much of it.
The lump was sensitive when I probed it , so I probed it often just to see if it would magically disappear. It didn’t.
I invited a friend to feel my lump because I couldn’t tell if it was an actual breast lump or just slightly weird boob bit. Of course, they didn’t know the answer, so they suggested the logical thing – to ask someone who would know, my doctor.
Life is busy, and I put it off for weeks. My friend asked me regularly if I’d made the appointment, but I didn’t make it a priority. I now realise what a huge risk I took.
When I got to my doctor she popped me up on the table straight away. First I sat upright with my top off and she looked at my breasts before she even laid a finger on them. She squinted at them, and looked from every angle.
My doctor questioned whether I had noticed any changes in appearance. Was there any puckering, a change in the nipple, or discoloration? No, nothing I’d noticed.
There was just the breast lump.
When I lay down, she began her examination and started with the breast without the lump. She agreed that my breasts did feel very grainy, in fact, she described them as a bag of rice.
When she came to the breast in question she confirmed that this bag of rice had a meatball in it. I was hoping she’d tell me it was nothing. Although she said she felt it was probably nothing sinister, she booked me immediately for tests, because “we mustn’t mess around with breast lumps.”
I was booked in for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy the following day. Although my doctor’s words “it’s probably nothing sinister” echoed in my ears, I couldn’t stop my brain from going to the “what if?” place.
What if she was wrong?
As a single mum, what if I got sick?
What if the time I’d waited before going to the doctor was the crucial time to catch it early?
It’s human nature to think “what if”, so after a sleepless night I fronted up to my appointment to get some answers.
Regardless of whether your breasts are large or small (mine are medium) mammograms are not especially fun. That said, they can be life saving so a few moments of boob sandwiching is completely worth it for the sake of peace of mind.
After I was sandwiched this way and that, I was told to head to a different waiting area for my ultrasound. I stared at the beige walls waiting for my name to be called.
And then it was. The lady performing the ultrasound squirted the cold gel onto my breast and began her search.
“There’s nothing there,” she said, “only breast tissue.”
“We don’t need to do a biopsy."
I requested she check again. After all, my doctor felt it, and I felt it. Would she like to feel it too? No, she said, because only breast tissue was showing up on the screen.
I’ve never been so relieved to be proven wrong.
Even though this lump was nothing sinister, it was a big reminder to me that I need to be vigilant with my breast health. I’m a mum of two, and I run the ship, so my health must be a priority. The health of my children is too, which is why I’ve made it my job to educate by children, especially my daughter, about breast health.
Everyone should make their health a priority. The key is early detection, so regular checks on your own and with your doctor, along with a mammogram every two years if you’re between 50 to 74 are essential.
Together, my doctor and I still monitor the lump in my breast to make sure that if changes and becomes sinister anytime soon, we both pick it up and act on it early.
This Mother’s Day 2017, McGrath Foundation and Bupa are encouraging people all over Australia to make a moment with their Mum, a moment that matters. Talk to your mums and daughters about breast health. Read our article on self breast check tips everyone should know.