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Thread: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

  1. #1
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    Dec 2016
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    Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    Hello everyone,

    I'm wondering if anyone has had help to face up to getting breast checks or any other checks which they are nervous about because of fears of it being serious?

    I had a benign lesion removed from my breast 10 years ago, that side has been slightly bigger and more 'reactive' since, the armpit and the arm itself feels like it swells slightly when my period is due but it all goes down again. I went back for another check up a year later and they said there was nothing to worry about, it's just more active, but that was 10 years ago.

    I'm due to start going for mammograms, I've just started HRT which I feel a lot better on, but just before my period I get really worried about this whole area. Once my period starts and the sensations and swelling go away I'm less worried, but the real issue is that I won't go and get checked out.

    Telling me to go won't work, if it were that easy I'd do it. I've worked with a psychologist to face up to some medical checks and I've done those, but this, I don't want to be back in the situation I was in all those years ago, it happened straight after a life changing traumatic incident, so I was really not up for anything else and then I had to go and get that sorted. At the time they thought it was cancer, but then later told me it wasn't, it was a rare lesion that's benign and they only remove these things because it would cause confusion on mammograms later on (I suspect they just wanted it gone as well just in case).

    Has anyone worked with a psychologist or anyone about this sort of thing, or managed to go get checked when anxious, because I need help and no one in my friends or family are interested to hear about it sadly.

    Thanks for any advice, thoughts, experience you have.

  2. #2
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    I have had massive anxiety about my breasts in the past; to the point where I begged for an elective double mastectomy (and was refused, naturally). I have worked with psychologists and have reached a balance of sorts- although the worry is still there from time to time (and I also suffer from health anxiety, quite profoundly, about a number of horrible illnesses.... so it is not exclusively breast. Although that was the worst for a time)
    Feel free to DM me if you like?

  3. #3
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    Thanks jojo2316, I have some health anxiety about other things too, mainly due to a traumatic event that happened. I think my difficulty over getting breast checks done are that I had such a bad first attempt all those years ago. it was unfortunate and I was still in shock over an incident that had happened, so i just wasn't really in any state to deal with stuff like that. But being younger then, I just assumed I had to get an itchy patch on my breast sorted out and thought it would be ok. And up to a point it was because the itch was actually nothing at all, and the thing they found was benign. It was just all bad timing. The main thing being that they were convinced it was cancer and I was still in shock about something else that had just happened.

    I'm curious how things with the psychologists have helped, so I'll message you when my brain is working a bit better than now, lol. Thank you :-)

  4. #4
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    Thinking what is the difference between those of us who go straight to the doctors and those of us who don't. For me, I don't want to be back in a situation that I was in before. It's like my brain doesn't remember that it all turned out benign, it only remembers that they said it's cancer and that I was already 'dying' then inside because of witnessing the sudden loss of someone.

    It's like my brain is stuck there with the shock of that situation and hasn't moved on.

    If it give it a nudge and say, look it all turned out ok, now you just need to go back and get checked over. The thought that returns is that I've left it all too late.

  5. #5
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    and if I've left it too late, I'm better off not knowing.

    (I'm not recommending this approach, I would tell others to get checked over)

    I thought that working with a psychologist would mean facing the absolute worst fear and being prepared to work through that, which for me is going and finding out bad news. I think without doing that I'm not going to be able to have the checks that I should have. Has anyone else worked with a psychologist and how did it help?
    Last edited by Rosanna; 26-05-21 at 22:57.

  6. #6
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    Anyone else have any experience or thoughts? I am really stuck and if there is something wrong it's being left as I am not able to budge on this at the moment.

  7. #7
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    I thought that working with a psychologist would mean facing the absolute worst fear and being prepared to work through that, which for me is going and finding out bad news. I think without doing that I'm not going to be able to have the checks that I should have. Has anyone else worked with a psychologist and how did it help?
    I haven't worked with a psychologist. However, this sentence you wrote struck me. Its interesting you said this, as I have yearly mammograms and the only way I cope with them is imagining that they 'might' find something and if they do then they've found it early and at a treatable level. I have had to work hard on switching around from 'I'm scared there might be something/there could be something/I can't cope if they do fine something' to a high level of acceptance that something could/will be found. An acceptance of the 'worst fear' that you referred to.

    I then move on from that acceptance, and remind myself that early cancers are treatable, BC very treatable in the vast majority of women and push myself past the fear of the diagnosis. Does that make sense ? I think part of the acceptance that there MIGHT be something is also acceptance that the 'bad news' doesn't have to be, and is very unlikely to be, as bad as you think e.g. a prognosis of decline and dying. Now, to let you know, I have had BC and I have been there at the fear of diagnosis level - the 'I can't bear to go and find out' level. However, pushing past that save my life.

    You need to also change around your view of the mammogram, IT is not the threat, any undetected cancer is the threat. Not all women who go for screening are told there is nothing wrong, there would be no point in mammograms if that were the case. They exist so that anything found can be dealt with. As I became more knowledgeable in the world of BC, or certainly knew more people who have had it, had treatments and moved on in life, it became less frightening to realise that the 'absolute worst fear' isn't quite what people who haven't faced it think it is.

  8. #8
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    Thanks so much for your reply Carys. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experience.

    I'm not sure entirely what the problem is. I started off with the worst fear being that bc would be found, but at the moment it's far worse than that.

    What happened a decade ago (but it doesn't seem that long at all), I witnessed the sudden death of a loved one, very unexpected and random. About a month or so later I went along to a breast clinic because of itching on my right nipple (though later realised it was happening on the left to a lesser extent). I wasn't concerned going, which was very naive, but at 39 I knew I was under the average age and I thought I was just doing the right thing by being checked. I was still in total shock and bereavement when I went, I don't know if that had some bearing, but my life had changed beyond anything I knew before. I didn't really know what was keeping me alive at that point or keeping my heart going or my lungs breathing. I'm saying all this not to be dramatic, but to try and convey the state I was in (and work out for myself if this is partly what the problem is).

    So when I think of that breast clinic, or of going back there, one of the things in my mind is that I'm back in that horrific situation. Of course logically I'm not, and I only mention it as I'm trying to understand it.

    That day at the breast clinic. still in an absolute state over losing a loved one, they told me it was bc. I asked how sure were they and they said 90% and that I would have to have a biopsy to find out the type, but they already knew clinically that it was.

    It seems in those situations there is no mention of anything helpful or optimistic, no perspective giving, etc. The surgeon who spoke with me was kind but said very little. It was only my GP who explained there are many different types, etc and all with different outcomes. It didn't help by then.

    Two weeks later the biopsy suggested it was all benign, it was a rare lesion that is 'almost always' benign (but I won't read anymore about it). Six weeks after that it was removed and reported to be completely benign.

    The nightmare of the whole thing for me was the state I was already in and also not realising that bc, found early (which it would have been) is completely treatable. I knew on some level it was for some people, but I didn't realise just how optimistic it was for the majority of people.

    A year later I went back to report that my right breast (the one that had been operated on) was a bit larger than the left. And also that there was fullness in the armpit. They did an ultrasound only at my request, but they said they were happy with that. They said there was nothing of note apart from cysts.

    For the remaining 9 or so years I've been aware of the right armpit feeling fuller, sometimes there's a 'ball' in there just before a period then it disappears. If I pull the skin to make it tight, there is dimpling, and it has a lumpier appearance than the left. But if I pull the skin tight on the left there is also dimpling, though a lot less. This has been like this for years now, although I'd say in the last year or two it's changed slightly. I put that down to approaching menopause and starting HRT last year (I know the concerns about that but have decided on the treatment for many medical reasons and been told there is more risk for bc by being overweight, I know people have different views though). The changes are that I feel twinges that run down my arm and I feel there's a kind of puffiness in the skin on parts of my arm. That said at certain times of the month it goes away, but it should still be checked.

    But now the worst fear is that I've left it too late. I will see if I can work on that with the psychologist, but I think there's something else as well. I think even beyond that worst fear, I am avoiding that horrible feeling of dread and horror that I associated with the clinic, but was partly because of the traumatic situation I'd been through back then.

    Sorry for the very long ramble. I hope in a way going through it might move me towards starting to deal with it.

    Thanks so much for your time :-)

  9. #9
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    A very quick reply, as early and not brain-ready yet today (you have brought up a lot here) lol The fullness of breast and dimpling under the arm : any breast surgery, even the removal of benign 'lumps' can affected the flow of lymph fluid through the lymph nodes (under the arm and in the breast as you describe). You had tissue removed and there could be minor scarring inside the breast, or even lymph node damage during the surgery. Lymph nodes themselves could be allowing some fluid to build up in the breast tissue as their usual pathways were broken during the surgery - which is what you went back for 9 years ago and had a scan.

    These words -
    A year later I went back to report that my right breast (the one that had been operated on) was a bit larger than the left. And also that there was fullness in the armpit. They did an ultrasound only at my request, but they said they were happy with that. They said there was nothing of note apart from cysts.
    reminds me very much of some symptoms people have after BC lumpectomy surgery. Often there is something called Seroma, a build up up fluid at the operation site and this can affect under the armpit too, this can also become general Lymphodaema, fluid build up in breast. There is no reason why, even though you didn't have BC and the lump was benign, that you could have some of the same issues as those with lumpectomy have. This could be one of the unexplained problems off the plate as being a problem/concern ? The arm can also be affected by fluid retention by the way, something you mention as a recent problem and it can be long term in some people. THis is certainly something that you could ask for confirmation of at a clinic. Will return later to answer further.....
    Last edited by Carys; 01-06-21 at 05:59.

  10. #10
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    Re: Breast anxiety, anyone had help or can help?

    Thanks so much for your thoughts Carys, I had never heard of this. it's certainly worth knowing.

    I'm pretty wiped out today so I'll keep this brief, I'm sure that's a relief, lol. Very grateful for your response and experience.

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