Ever since I was a little girl, I always saw advertisements that implied that if you found a lump in your breast, it’s cancer. So, when at 19 years old I found a lump in my breast, I had the biggest health scare of my life.
Being the health-conscious girl that I am, checking my breasts to ensure that they were lump-free was not new to me. I never expected to find anything but I always wanted to be cautious. However, one night, my expectation of not finding anything was not met.
I was lying on my dorm room bed in the middle of the night feeling a bit achy. I knew my period was coming and I normally get aches when that happens, but I still felt the urge to check my breasts. To my dismay, I found a lump. Startled at the discovery, I checked again, pressing my fingers in, thinking it must be a mistake. Nope. It was a grape-sized lump. I immediately started to cry, texting my mum at 2 am, thinking, “Is my life about to change?”
When my university clinic opened, I called to book an appointment.
The next open slot was the next morning. The wait was a struggle since I couldn’t get the fear out of my head. The thought, “What if it’s cancer?” kept creeping in and no matter what I was doing, it was in the back of my head.
Finally, my appointment had arrived. Despite asking for a female doctor, there were only male doctors present. Luckily, a female chaperone was present during my appointment so I didn’t feel too uncomfortable as a middle-aged male doctor checked my breasts. Upon carefully checking the lump, he assured me that it was not something to worry about. Nevertheless, just to reassure me, he booked me an appointment for an ultrasound at a breast clinic. I decided that going to the breast clinic in my home city would be the best bet.
Two weeks later, I was with another male doctor, a female nurse, and my mum in a breast clinic. Having read a story about a 19-year-old girl who turned out to have breast cancer, I was determined to know if my lump was as benign as the university doctor had claimed. As the doctor chatted with me through the whole process, I felt so comfortable that it didn’t even feel awkward that he was checking my breasts.
He told me that these types of lumps are especially common in African and Asian young women. That came as a revelation to me since despite being British Nigerian, I never knew that.
A few minutes later, I was taken into the ultrasound room. There, a female doctor applied some gel to my breast and started the ultrasound scan. And there it was — a random lump sitting in my breast, glaring at me through the ultrasound screen. It was shocking that something could just insert itself in one’s body, unannounced, and occupy it as a home. Immediately, the doctor explained to me that what I had was a benign lump a.k.a. a non-cancerous lump — a fibroadenoma. Fibroadenomas usually do not require treatment. They’re lumps that often remain the same size or can eventually disappear. It’s also rare that they get bigger, but if they do, they may need to be removed. However, they’re non-cancerous and nothing to worry about.
It’s strange that benign breast lumps are very common yet no one around me — including myself — had ever heard of the different types of non-cancerous breast lumps.
In fact, Refinery 29 reported that fibroadenoma, cyst, abscess, fibrocystic changes, and fat necrosis are 5 types of breast lumps that are not cancerous. Furthermore, a director of breast surgery at John Hopkins has stated that more than 99% of lumps in women under the age of 30 are benign. Then, for women aged 30 to 40, it’s about 95%. These are some of the statistics that we should all know.
Breast cancer awareness is vital and despite the lump being non-cancerous, I’m grateful that I was familiar enough with my breasts to spot the new hidden lump. Benign lumps are incredibly common therefore, we should never jump to any conclusions when discovering a lump in our breasts. However, it’s still important to have them checked out by a doctor since breast cancer does happen in young women.
It was scary being a 19-year-old going to my university’s health clinic to get a lump in my breast checked but that’s what I had to do. This experience helped me gain knowledge of my own body and made me more aware.