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Thread: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    192

    breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    Hi all, I've had breast cancer anxiety for about 15 years. I also have general health anxiety, but this is what started it all. I'm now 49 and have decided enough is enough with this anxiety beast.

    I'm in therapy and working hard to overcome it once and for all, but part of that is dealing with finding something in a breast self-exam without working myself up into a state.

    Last week I found a ridge of lumpy tissue at about 3pm on my left breast. It feels long and oval and covered in bumps. It's not moveable and got very sore when I touched it. I can also feel a small round lump.

    Mind you I was really digging deep with my fingertips (which you're not supposed to do). When I did the self-exam as per the instructions (with the middle part of the fingers) I couldn't really feel it.

    Of course my panic kicked in anyway and I had the overwhelming urge to run to the GP. But then I was able to calm myself down with some deep breathing and remind myself that running to the GP immediately isn't what I do anymore.

    I also reminded myself that I had a mammogram and ultrasound 6 months ago that found a cyst in this area.

    Also my GP did a breast exam in December and had no concerns.

    So I made a deal with myself not to check the breast for 7 days and then see what happened/how I felt.

    Today was day 7 so I checked it again and I don't think there's any change (I'm now on day 11 of my cycle). The lumpy area feels the same and I think I can also feel the cyst. So I've made an appointment with the GP in another week's time to get it checked. I'm staying fairly calm about it (for me anyway). It's my birthday this week, which apart from Christmas is my most common time to have a health anxiety spiral, so I'm trying to keep things in perspective.

    The weird thing is, after all these years of breast anxiety, I've realised I actually have no idea what my breasts feel like normally. This area could have been there for years! I'm always so terrified of finding something that I just give them the quick once over while holding my breath. So assuming this turns out to be nothing sinister, I'm going to draw a map of my breast so I remember where this area is for next time.

    My health anxiety isn't taking this new approach lying down of course. It's fighting back and telling me that because I'm being calm and logical, this is the time it's going to be the real thing. So I'm countering that with determined positivity. For once I refuse to get myself into a state about this, because it will have absolutely no bearing on the result. I can choose to be a stressed out mess for my birthday through to when I see the GP or I can stay calm and enjoy my birthday. Because what's the worst that can happen? That my anxiety is right? It won't make any difference one way or the other, plus my anxiety has a dreadful track record with these things so the odds are in my favour.

    Anyway, I just wanted to document how I'm dealing with this here to keep myself accountable and also to maybe help someone else going through the same worries.




  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    6,553

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    I found that an interesting read carriewriting. I've replied to so many people on here about Breast Anxiety that I've lost count, and found your 'new' approaches very sensible, strong and well planned. Your ability to 'self-reassure' is really pleasing to read about.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    192

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    Thanks Carys, that's very kind of you to say.

    I had a big test today. A friend of mine is moving to another country and has invited me out to lunch for my birthday/her farewell.

    It is the same day/time I'd booked my doctor's appointment!

    My first instinct was to say I couldn't do lunch that day, but then I gave myself a reality check. I can reschedule the appointment for 5 days later, which even in the worst case scenario would make no difference.

    I asked myself. "Do I really want to give up a lovely lunch with my friend for a doctors appointment that I can reschedule for 5 days time and for something that in all likelihood will be nothing of concern?"

    So I rescheduled the appointment, but boy was my anxiety high as I did it. Making a choice to delay seeing my GP was tough, but I know these are the kinds of challenges I have to set myself if I'm ever going to get past this.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    192

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    The other thing I've been doing is proper research on breast cancer screening.

    So many of us get a mammogram and ultrasound and are relieved for a few weeks before we start worrying again.

    And I'm not going to lie, writing this is giving me pangs of anxiety because I feel like "what if I write this and then I go to the GP and actually have breast cancer" but here's what I found:

    It is extremely rare to be diagnosed with breast cancer in between mammograms. Like, you have to be really, really unlucky.

    Anxiety makes us feel like it happens all the time, but it really doesn't.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    6,553

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    Carrie, to be honest, I wish you'd come and help me on some of the 'breast cancer fear threads' !

    I've had BC, and even as someone who has had surgery and treatment I can tell you that they only give a mammogram yearly. Nothing changes that quickly.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    1,599

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    Carrie- this sounds like such a triumph over “the beast”. You are taking sensible precautions but you are not allowing it to run away with you. You should allow yourself to feel proud. Thank you so much for sharing and let us know how you get on when you do visit the dr.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    192

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    Thanks Carys and JoJo. I hope I can help others here so they don't end up with this as long as I've had it, but I've still got a long way to go. I think I've found a way to cope with my breast cancer anxiety, but even today I went back down the rabbit hole with 3 other cancers.

    Still, I'm definitely getting better at dragging myself out of the spirals faster. I've been doing schema therapy for the past 3 months and believe that's the key to overcoming all my anxiety issues.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
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    192

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    Quick update. I went to the GP today and she agrees there is a lumpy area in my left breast. She said it doesn't feel concerning, but in her opinion it should be reviewed just to make sure. Because I had a mammogram and u/s 6 months ago, she's sending me for an MRI and if that's clear we'll talk about my screening program for the future.

    I'm not sure when I can have the MRI as I have irregular cycles and apparently it has be on day 7. So I'm a little stressed about that and the prospect of what might be found, but I'm trying to keep my mind from going to dark and scary places.

  9. #9

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    I'm sorry you're going through this Carrie, HA sucks. Could it be your rib cage? Have you checked the other side too?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    12,620

    Re: breast lump anxiety – dealing with self-exam findings

    The MRI has to be specifically on day 7 of your cycle..Yet what you are scared of would be evident on every day of your cycle.

    You had a mammogram 6 months ago which spotted the cyst.

    You're doing really well rationalising all this and it's only natural to get the doubts creeping in..but the odds are very much in your favour that this is a completely benign issue. You've been checked out very recently..Very recently indeed. Your GP is playing safe which doesn't really help your HA but at least she will discuss a future screening plan with you so that you know where you stand and will have clear guidelines as to limits on what you can request re tests.

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