By: Alison Dunn Oct 05, 2010
Don't be a boob

I’m not really worried… but I’m a little bit worried.

I’m leaving my office a few minutes after I write this to go to a doctor’s appointment. It’s a follow-up appointment from a few weeks ago, when I went in to see him about a lump in my breast.

There, I said it. I haven’t admitted it to anyone yet, but I’m a little freaked out. About a month or so ago, I found a lump on one breast when doing one of my usual self-exams. As someone who writes about health on a daily basis, I really do try and practice what I preach. And I know that breast self-exams are recommended monthly, so I check them regularly.

I made a doctor’s appointment to have him check it out. But I’m only 35, I reassured myself. Nothing really to worry about, right? Besides, it has only been five months since my last physical, and there was no sign of a lump then. Could this lump just be part of my normal monthly cycle? Or does finding a lump automatically mean it’s breast cancer?

Like everyone, I’m hyper-aware of the issues surrounding breast cancer. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, we are bombarded in the media by messages about breast cancer. And the statistics are scary. On average, 445 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every week. One in nine Canadian women will develop breast cancer in her life. And 100 Canadian women will die of breast cancer every week.

It’s no wonder we all tend to panic when we find something in our breasts. We should panic, a little. We should be very aware of our breasts and take note of changes. We should get to a doctor as soon as we can if we feel something like a lump – early detection is one of the best ways to survive breast cancer. The better we get to know our breasts, the better chance we have of finding cancer before it gets worse.

That said, however, it’s easy to panic just a bit too much. Our breasts constantly change throughout our lives. Some changes to our breasts are simply normal parts of our cycle. Others can be benign or non-cancerous tumours that just happen to spring up. So while we need to be vigilant about our breasts, we also need to relax. Don’t start self-diagnosing yourself with cancer just because you’ve found a lump. Get it checked out and let the professionals give you a definitive diagnosis. (To learn more, be sure to read “Keeping abreast of breast cancer” this week on Primacy Life.)

In my case, my doctor thought the lump was related to my regular monthly cycle. He asked me to come back in two weeks so he could check it out again, but he thought the lump would diminish after my period.

I’m on my way for that follow-up right now. I’m not really worried – he was right about it diminishing, as I can’t seem to find the lump anymore. But I’m not taking any chances either, so I’m heading back to see what he has to say. I know I am doing the right thing by being proactive about my breast health.

After all, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.