we need to talk about boobs

For the second month in a row, I’ve felt some pain in my left boob leading into my period.

The first time I noticed it, I got worried, yes, but I thought:

“OK well, I don’t feel a bump as such. So, let’s just see what happens. If it goes away and never comes back – awesome. Nothing to worry about.”

Sure enough, the weird feeling went away. I put it down to an old bra with an aging underwire and resolved to never wear said bra again.

But then this past month the pain came back. And this time I noticed a bit of a lump. Or more the conglomeration of tissue in the spot where I was experiencing the pain.

I checked the app I use to track my period.

I’m not on the pill. I stopped taking that after a previous breaking up. And since then, I’ve tracked my period using an app, just to be sure that it was regular and … stuff!

As it turned out I was ovulating.

After a quick Google search … 

I know, dangerous ground. Google is NOT your friend when it comes to health issues …!

… I discovered that it’s normal for some women to feel some boob pain/tenderness leading into a period. Apparently, this is largely due to hormones – something about the rise in progesterone.

But the lump? What is that all about?

I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that I needed to get this checked out.

So, with the pain not getting any better as the weekend progressed (I rediscovered the pain on a Friday, on waking that morning) I decided to book an appointment with my GP.

Better to be safe than sorry, right? And really, there’s only one way to know for sure.

I sat in the doctor’s office at 7:45 on Monday morning, worry clear across my mask-covered face.

First appointment of the day. Anxiety and worry bubbling up – a few more Google searches later and my imagination was running wild – I couldn’t wait any longer.  

After an examination, the doctor said that while she didn’t feel (pun intended) anything sinister, given my age (>35) and my previous history (I had a cyst removed from the same boob several years prior), to be sure I needed to get an ultrasound and a mammogram.

Honestly, I was kind of hoping she’d tell me it was nothing to worry about – that I was overreacting. But I am super grateful that she did her job diligently.

On getting home from seeing my GP, I immediately booked the earliest appointment at the recommended radiology clinic.

Knowing what to look for

During the ultrasound part of the appointment, the technician was nice enough to alleviate some of my worry and anxiety by talking me through the process as she was doing it – talking me through some of the images she was seeing on the screen.

Clearly highly experienced, she said to me that a potentially sinister lump would feel more like concrete – like a piece of rock in under your skin.

OK. Phew! Good to know and also reassuring to know that, that’s not the type of lump I had felt.

While that’s great to know, it’s important to add that if you’re worried, regardless of whether you ‘think’ it’s sinister or not – make sure you get any new/concerning lumps or bumps checked out by your healthcare professional.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation backs this up, stating on their website:

“If you have found a new lump or a breast change, it is important to see your doctor so that it can be checked by a health professional.

“It is important to remember that most breast changes are not caused by cancer, and the signs and symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions.

“However, if you have noticed any symptoms or changes in your breasts, it is important that you see your doctor without delay so that changes can be checked.”  

Right. Got it. Glad I got mine checked.  

But this experience got me thinking: What are the guidelines when it comes to self-breast examinations? What should we be on the lookout for?

The National Breast Cancer Foundation continues:

“For women of all ages, it is recommended that you be breast aware.

“Breast awareness is being familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, so that you can identify any unusual changes (such as a new lump, thickening in the breast, especially if it is only in one breast, changes to the shape and size of the breast of changes to the shape of the nipple).”

The McGrath Foundation, which also provides a useful infographic on how to check your breasts each month, suggest the following steps when doing a boob check:

  • Look: “Look at the shape and appearance of your breasts and nipples in the mirror with your hands by your sides.”
  • Feel: “Feel all of your breasts and nipples, looking for anything that isn’t normal for you.”
  • Learn: “Learn what’s normal for you!”

According to the McGrath Foundation, “you should breast check once a month, around the same time in your menstrual cycle, to account for any regular hormonal changes”.

The foundation also underscores the importance of being “breast aware” – “knowing how your breasts look and feel, and knowing what is ‘normal’ for you”.

And if you’re ever in doubt: see your GP! Getting checked by a healthcare professional and having further checks through an ultrasound and a mammogram where recommended is really the only way to be sure.

So, the good news for me is that the results of my mammogram and ultrasound came back normal – a whole bunch of hormonal tissue, contributing to the pain I had been feeling.

But if nothing else, this experience has highlighted the importance of getting to know your boobs – what’s normal vs. what’s new and different.

And, most importantly, it’s highlighted the importance of getting your boobs checked.

Sitting at home worrying isn’t going to make any new pain/discomfort/lumps/bumps go away.

At the very least, speaking with your GP will alleviate stress and worry … and let’s remember that it’s always better to find anything sinister early.

For more info, visit:

x G.

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