Breasts, baps tatas, funbags and every other name you can think of.
Boobs come in all shapes and sizes. They sit high, swing low, look left, jiggle to the right.
Every single persons’ boobs are different. Sure they all serve a similar purpose, but boobs are like snowflakes. Definitely individual.
You may be wondering why I’m talking about boobs… well, welcome. Welcome to my chat about boobs and boob health.
I’ve been doing a little friendly poll amongst the people I know recently and have been absolutely stunned by the amount of people who either don’t regularly check their boobs, and by some who NEVER check their boobs. Never!? If you’re one of them reading this right now…you better be hanging your head in shame. Or actually, better yet, hang your head in shame and put your hand down your bra.
Breast cancer is the most spoken about cancer, so to realise that people are not self checking, really is a terrifying thought. If there are no checks going on for the most publicised cancer, then how on earth is any one going to notice any symptoms of the lesser spoken about cancers?!
My boob story goes back nearly ten years. Up until the age of 22, I didn’t check my boobs. I don’t actually remember what made me do it that first time but I do remember the evening I did. Home alone, just out of shower and I went for it. Had a little grope of the right one and I remember thinking to myself how on Earth are you meant to notice a single lump when it feels like the Himalayas in there. Onto the left one and bam, right there in the middle of that mountain range. There it was…my first boob lump.
Queue the obvious instant thoughts, picturing myself bald, convinced I was on my way out of this world and picking my funeral song.
(All really regular thoughts by the way if you ever find yourself in the same situation, don’t think you’ve gone a bit cray-cray or are being dramatic. It is absolutely fine to let the panic take over for a minute. Let it out, it will subside, your rational side will return).
Some manic Googling took over and I was hit with stories of people who had been dismissed by their doctors because of their age, told that it is hormonal only to find out that it was indeed cancer and whilst they were then blissfully revelling in their hormonal ‘normal lumpy’ boobs, cancer was spreading itself viciously.
They were the only stories that I found online. Always bad ones. Always ones that ended with the girl or guys’ partner writing the last instalment of their ‘journey’, as the person who started the chat had died, generally due to late detection of the disease.
I’m hoping that when people find themselves in the same situation, after some Googling this might pop up, and they will read a story about lumps that aren’t always a death sentence. Bodies grow lumps and bumps when they shouldn’t, mine personally seems to love doing it. It’s really good at it. At least semi-pro. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the amount of times of I have started conversations with…’Guess what, I’ve got another lump.’
Back to 22 year old Sarah’s boob lump story here. Here’s a quick picture for everyone’s enjoyment. This person there in the leopard print and fluro tights was about to go to the doctors expecting a fight to be taken seriously about a lump growing in already lumpy boobs.
Walking into an unknown situation, dreading the fact that I was about to get topless, and be felt up by a GP with inevitably cold hands. I took myself in and remember being defensive. After reading all the stories online, I was half expecting them to tell me it’s fine and to go home. I had a speech ready to throw at them if this happened about how I needed it to be checked further. Turns out I didn’t need that speech.
I have never needed that speech.
Every single doctor I have seen, countless times with new lumps have always taken it seriously. They have always examined thoroughly, and I have always been referred to the one stop breast clinic.
The NHS one stop breast clinic, is without doubt, an absolute wonder of a service. I have always been seen within two weeks, and always had results within three weeks after going to the initial doctors appointment. I have been to quite a few different ones now and found the set up is more or less identical. I feel like I need some sort of membership or loyalty card.
There is an initial meeting with a consultant, and always an absolutely delightful breast nurse, who tells you exactly what is going on and what to do, and smiles a little creepily at you when you need it least, when you are sat topless, trying to make chit chat.
I love them. They really do reduce the nervous feeling a clinic like that can give you.
The consultant finds your little lump pal, covers you in Sharpie, and sends you off for an ultrasound or a mammogram, depending on your age. Ultrasounds work best on younger ladies, as they show up lumps through dense breast tissue, where a mammogram wouldn’t pick it up.
If your little lump pal is found on the scan, it is usually followed up by a biopsy right there and then. No waiting weeks for an appointment, instant biopsy. No time to stress about it. There are a couple of different types and I have had each, the first is the FNA (fine needle aspiration) where a little needle goes in with a syringe attached, and sample of the cells are taken. If that lump looks like a cyst, it can even be drained straight away. If the pesky little lump you have grown is a solid tumour, you get a core biopsy, which involves a little bit more. You will have a local anaesthetic injection in the area, and a small cut is made. A hollow needle is guided in whilst still be watched by the ultrasound, so that an accurate tissue sample is taken.
A little warning, this can be really uncomfortable. On a few occasions it has taken well over an hour to get a sample size they are happy with. For me this has been due to having delightfully dense and lumpy boobs, so getting the needle through normal breast tissue, takes some brute force. It doesn’t hurt at all, but your arm will 100% be dead from being above your head, and the feeling of something cold rummaging around in your boob is a weird sensation, and the click the needle makes when it takes the sample, will make you jump, it is surprisingly loud.
One of the first biopsies I had, I imagine made the whole clinic appointments late for the entire day, and traumatised my mum who was sat outside, watching more and more people go into the room I was in, all giving it a good go. God bless the NHS.
For me, and all the little incisions I have over my boobs from biopsies, I have always had good results. They have all come back from biopsy as fibroadenomas. Basically benign tumours. I have had to have one removed because it was growing super super fast, so they decided it was best to be removed and thoroughly checked, but it actually turned out that underneath the lump that was initially biopsied, was a sneaky little lump hiding, which was growing and pushing the other one up. Another wise move from the doctors, as if it had been left, and the sneaky pal was cancerous, it would have been a long time before it was found. I would have ended up as one of the bad stories you find online at 3am when your mind is in overdrive waiting for an appointment.
The last biopsy I had was the day before I found out I was pregnant. Classic fab timing. It was the worst one. It was the only one so far that the consultant had been a bit more unsure of, as on ultrasound it showed some cancerous traits snuggled alongside non cancerous traits. The biopsy was difficult. (Dense boobs, scar tissue from previous operations, and hormonal boobs from early preggo life), meant a very uncomfortable hour and a half of my life, but within three days, I had the results, and life was all good again.
So what is the point of me telling my lumpy boob story?
It is to get you to check your boobs, and not to be scared of going to the doctors with a suspected lump. They will take it seriously, they will check it thoroughly, and chances are, it will be absolutely fine, and even if it is not, you would have given yourself the best chance by finding it as early as possible.
I have found loads of lumps, I have had loads of biopsies, and I am really happy that I have.
All of the lumps that I have had, I have found myself, and only because I know my boobs well. Check them at least once a month, at the same time, where there is the least hormonal changes. The last lump I found, felt like a tiny little bump close to the skin. The consultant also thought that was what he was going to see on the ultrasound, in fact, in was a 2.5cm lump really deep in my boob, almost on my chest wall, which had pushed regular breast tissue up to the surface, which is what we felt. Without knowing my boobs the way I do, I would not have in a million years noticed that teeny tiny little bump.
Early detection in younger people is what saves lives. Cancer screening does not start until we hit 50 years old, and then there is a three year gap until the next one. So self examination in between screening is vital to being an advocate for your own health.
So if you have found yourself here after a Google search, know that most lumps are not cancer. Most lumps will not cause you problems, and if you find yourself at the end of this not knowing what your boobs feel like, go and start now, and look out for these changes