I am going to apologise in advance because this post is probably going to be really long but I honestly feel like it’s so important to tell you about my recent trip to the hospital. I wasn’t ill or anything but as women, this is something so important that we should be talking about so much more!
As the title suggests, I recently celebrated my 23rd birthday! To be honest, birthdays are just another day so I don’t get overly excited but this year was a little less exciting.
Around March time I was moisturising after having a shower and I felt a pretty sizable lump on my left breast. Initially panicked and honestly, I could have thrown up. After I calmed down though I was fine and I got over it.
I decided to leave it a week or two to make sure I wasn’t imaging it, I definitely wasn’t. Eventually, I told my friends, which frankly I am so glad I did because they made me feel so much better and more relaxed about the situation. I made my friends have a feel and get their thoughts and they definitely kept me calm.
Eventually, I forced myself to make time and go to the doctor. It couldn’t have gone worse, but only because I was running late and I refused to leave until the receptionist spoke to the doctor and they saw me anyway! My doctor was so helpful. She examined me. Obviously, as a GP, it’s not her speciality so she chose to refer me to the hospital. She also showed me how to do a proper breast examination.
Our NHS get’s such a bad rep sometimes, but I received my letter in around a week with my appointment. I only had to wait a month between receiving my letter and my actual appointment. Unfortunately, they gave me my appointment on my birthday!!
I got a booklet, with my appointment letter, that explained what would happen at my appointment and the various different tests that could possibly be performed. I’m not sure if all breast clinics are like this, but in Aberdeen, ours is a “one-stop shop” where they aim to give you a result in one appointment. They do warn you that you can potentially be there for 3-4 hours.
So, first things first – when I arrived at the hospital I was taken to see my consultant. They take you into a room and they give you this funny “gown”. It’s not really a gown but instead is like a cape or a poncho with velcro down the front.
My consultant spoke to me for a while about why my doctor had referred me, where I’d felt the lump, some family history and then spoke me through what was likely to happen over the course of my appointment. Then, he examined me as well. This was a much more in-depth exam. He spent a lot of time checking both breasts. He then found two smaller lumps on the left, around the larger lump that I was referred for and then two small lumps on my right breast as well.
That was quite a shock because I went thinking that I only had one and left with 5…
I then got to put my bra and top back on and was taken to another waiting room. Here, I waited for an hour and 45 minutes. I am a nightmare with people and being surrounded by people talking and eating had my stress levels through the roof (I’m ridiculous, I know).
During my exam with my consultant, he marked the areas where they found lumps to help the radiologist. Eventually, I was taken through for an ultrasound. I put my gown/cape/poncho back on. Good on the NHS – you take it with you in a little bag! No waste washing there!
I’m not going to lie, this was the most uncomfortable part of my appointment. I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with my radiologist. For no reason in particular but I just felt a little uneasy.
He didn’t really speak too much so I didn’t really know what was going on. He spent a while doing my ultrasound and I’m not going to lie, it was sort of painful over the larger lump but I think that’s just because of where the lump is, there’s not a lot of breast tissue there.
As I say, my radiologist didn’t really say very much so suddenly I was just handed tissue to clean off the gel and told to put my clothes back on. Then I was taken back to another waiting room. I had no idea what was happening, if I needed any other tests or not until suddenly I was called back and put into a doctors office.
Here’s where it all really went down hill – I sat in this room for 25 minutes with no explanation. I was so uncomfortable and I got bored waiting and I went to go find a nurse to find out what was going on. All I can say about that is that I am not angry at my consultant, the clinic or even the hospital. While there I could tell you how many women I saw. There were so many people that the department/clinic was run ragid!
My consultant came back and explained to me how everything was going (and was incredibly apologetic about my wait). They reviewed my ultrasound and were trying to make a decision as to whether I needed a biopsy. They decided against this and I was done.
I was given another booklet, this time titled “Breast pain and benign disorders”. Basically, I have a benign disorder referred to as Fibrocystic changes (lumps). Benign disorders mean a non-cancerous, non-malignant condition. There are various different disorders but I’ll explain a little about each.
Fibrocystic changes generally occur in women aged 30-50 years old – unlucky for me! Sometimes they can be referred to as nodularity, lumpiness or cystic disease. Fibrocystic changes are related to the way breast tissue responds to the monthly changes in hormone oestrogen and progesterone. Fluid sort of collects and forms clusters or little cysts which cause the lumpy feeling. They don’t move around.
Breast Cysts are similar to fibrocystic changes and are common in women approaching menopause. They can become quite large and sometimes women may even need the fluid to be drawn out with a needle.
Fibroadenoma is a benign solid lump of fibrous tissue. They’re common in woman between 15-30. They don’t actually know that the cause of these lumps are, but they are completely harmless. They are mobile, painless and rubbery in texture. Unlike other lumps, these commonly can reduce in size.
Nipple discharge and asymmetry (when one breast, usually the left, is bigger than the other) are also common. The little booklet I was given explained how to treat breast pain. Cystical benign disorders can be painful so they recommend using an ibuprofen gel rubs.
See, I wasn’t joking when I said that this was going to be a long post but until I actually went to my appointment I didn’t know what to expect. I honestly think that our education system fails young girls when it comes to really opening up and discussing these sorts of things. I don’t really remember ever being taught how to properly perform a breast exam on myself and it’s not really something that a lot of girls are comfortable talking about.
I think I was probably the youngest person I saw, but I saw women from different walks of life, races, ages and nationalities. I can’t express how important I’ve realised it is to check yourself and GO AND GET SEEN!! I was nearly guilty of doing what a lot of women do and just avoiding it or ignoring that it was there. It is genuinely so, so important to go to the doctor and get it all checked out.
Sorry for rambling on for so long but as long as this post helps even just one person then it was worth it. Thank you for anyone who stuck with me to the end of this post!
Love and Kisses,