My breast cancer scare could help save others

Senior reporter Michelle Blade.
Senior reporter Michelle Blade.

Reporter Michelle Blade went to see her GP with itching in the right breast. What 
followed was a shock to the system and a wake-up call. Here Michelle tells her story

I went to see my GP because I was concerned about constant itching inside my right breast.

I was referred to the breast screening unit at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary for a mammogram(x-ray) and other tests if needed.

I was in the waiting room with other women of all ages, as well as young men, when I was called in to see the conultant. After a brief examination he said he was ‘not concerned’, and I was sent for a routine mammogram, essentially an x-ray of both my breasts.

I breezed along to have my mammogram, not worried in the slightest. I had been for a mammogram four years before in 2012 when I was 43, for a small lump in my breast whcih turned out to be a benign cyst.

I had my mammogram and was waiting to leave when the nurse called me in again.They had found something in my right breast which had appeared since my previous mammogram. I then had to have a further mammogram which magnified the area even more. I also had an ultrasound (similar to when you are pregnant), checking nothing had spread to my lymph nodes.

I was told by the ultrasound technician that they had found a ‘calcification’ which is small calcium deposits that develop in a woman’s breast tissue. They are very common and are usually benign (noncancerous) but some can be cancerous.

I had never heard of a calcifation before then – I just presumed breast cancer was a lump that could be felt. The calcification could not be felt. Had I inadvertently through my itching breast discovered something much more sinister?I was then prepared to have a biopsy which is where cells are taken from inside your breast whilst in a mammogram machine.

I had to lie on my side with one boob squashed into the machine whilst nine samples were taken.It was quite uncomfortable and produced a dull ache inside my breast as samples were taken.

I was given injections of local anaesthetic to numb the pain.

This was the worst bit, quite painful but the worry was starting in the back of my mind. Could I have cancer?

The radiographer put a tiny metal marker inside my breast, which stays there for life, to mark where the calcification was in case further investigation was needed.

I joked with her about setting airport alarms off if I walked through a security scanner and she said that would not happen.

After being given a very welcome cup of tea and some biscuits whilst recovering from the biopsy, I was then given another mammogram to see that the clip had settled into place.

I was told the results of the biopsy would take just over a week and I agreed to go back to the hospital to get my results. Then began a week and a half of worrying, googling all sorts on the internet to read about other women’s experiences, tossing and turning in bed each night imagining I might have to have a mastectomy (probably worst case scenario), not wanting to die at 47 – these might sound silly thoughts but I had them.

My stomach had butterflies every time I heard the word cancer and I couldn’t eat properly.

I wouldn’t wish how I felt on my worst enemy.

Thenone day before I was due to go to the hospital, I had a phone call saying the tests proved it was a benign calcification, not cancer. What a relief I felt as if a weight had lifted from my shoulders.

I also felt incredibly lucky and also incredibly sad for those women who were told they had cancer.

I realise this piece is a bit personal but I wanted to write it to raise awareness that despite me being under the age for a routine mammogram something was found which could have been cancer. I could not feel it or detectit myself.

If you feel something is wrong with your breasts, go and see your GP and ask to be referred to the breast clinic. It could save your life.

Early detection by screening

Morecambe Bay hospitals trust has begun to invite random 
samples of women aged 47-49 and 71-73 in addition to women aged 50-70 for breast screening.

Age extension will happen over a period of time and will eventually mean that all women receive their first invitation before their 50th birthday.

Breast screening aims to find breast cancer at an early stage.

The first symptom of breast cancer most women notice is a lump or an area of thickened tissue in their breast.

Most breast lumps (90%) aren’t cancerous. Breast pain isn’t usually a symptom of breast cancer.

You should see your GP if you have:

*A new lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast that was not there before;

*A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts;

*Bloodstained discharge from either of your nipples;

*A lump or swelling in either of your armpits;

*Dimpling on the skin of your breasts;

*A rash on or around your 
nipple;

*A change in the appearance of your nipple.