Breast Cancer And Pregnancy: My Experience With A Lump
I was 19 weeks pregnant and sitting mostly naked on the scratchy white papered table in my OB’s office waiting for my antenatal physical. My OB was going to be checking out my lymph nodes, listening to my heart sounds, routine vital signs, pap smear and breast exam. I know that many OB’s focus on things under the naval and above the knees, so I was feeling pretty impressed that my OB was going to be doing a breast exam on me. (Side note: best practice is that your care provider DOES do a breast exam on you during your pregnancy. Also, during this exam they can refer you to a lactation consultant if they see potential breastfeeding issues).
Leaning back with my bra hoisted over my breasts my OB found a firm round lump at the 10 o’clock area of my right breast. Her eyes went all squinty and she was looking off to the side as she felt around, eventually confirming that she had felt a lump. Did I panic? Yes, yes I did panic. I think I held it together during the actual moment.
‘Oh, a lump you say. Hmmm. Okay.’
I even held it together when I called my husband to let him know that I’d be needing him to watch Ben the next day as I was booked in for a breast ultrasound…because there was a lump in my right breast.
On my way home I sent a flurry of texts to 2 different nurse girlfriends. The bonus of having nurse friends is that they are professionally trained to keep their cool and help you keep yours too. The support was amazing and I was feeling okay with things. Maybe the lump could be something, but maybe it could just be a benign lump.
Then I got home and started to google ‘breast lump in pregnancy’ and soon a sickness of worry washed over me. I’m a natural worrier and know all to well that any statistic can be you. Why couldn’t I be that 1 of 1:3,000 to be diagnosed with breast cancer in pregnancy.
The next day on my way to the ultrasound appointment more rapid text messages were sent out. I’m scared. What if? Maybe it’s nothing?
I sat alone in the over filled waiting room of a busy city ultrasound clinic waiting my turn. Knowing that I would get no news today made me feel even worse. Then my number was called and I was soon laying topless in a small ultrasound room having ridiculously hot gel slathered all over my tender pregnant breast. The whole thing took about 2.5 minutes and then I was tossed a paper napkin and told to dress and have a good day.
The nurse in me wanted to get down to business. Who sees my ultrasound results today? When does my OB get faxed the results? WHAT DID YOU SEE? TELL ME! I’M A NURSE! I CAN HANDLE IT!’. Nothing.
A few days later I was having an afternoon pregnancy nap on our couch and the phone rang. ‘Doctors Office’ came up on the call display and my pulse raced and my breathing got all anxious. The lump was benign. The lump was benign! Most likely an old dried up milk duct from back in my breastfeeding days with Ben. Carry on. I pretty much burst into tears right on the phone with my obstetrician. Mostly from the relief and also from having felt so scared.
The topic of breast cancer and pregnancy has been highlighted in Vancouver news and the question was asked, ‘is there a link between breast cancer and pregnancy?’. Apparently, more research is needed on this topic but it does occur. So, pregnant ladies, if your care provider has not yet done a breast exam on you during your pregnancy, please request one at your next visit.