Monday, October 24, 2011

Love your breasts... do Breast Self-Exams

Photo taken by my daughter
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month dedicated to promoting breast cancer awareness, education and empowerment to women to make informed decisions regarding their breast care. Right now is as good a time as any to evaluate your personal breast care plan for early detection of any breast tissue diseases.

In October last year, I wrote the post "Love your breasts... get a mammogram" reminding, encouraging, imploring women to be conscientious about monitoring the health of their breasts by getting their annual [or biennial] mammogram starting at age 40, or earlier for women with a family history of breast cancer.

This year, I am reminding, encouraging and imploring you to be conscientious about another important part of your breast health plan and that is to do regular Breast Self-Exams [BSE] starting in your 20s.

I personally endorse this as an absolute necessary component of your breast health plan because in January of this year, I found a lump in my right breast while doing a Breast Self-Exam, just two months after having had a clear mammogram. Thankfully, I was eventually diagnosed with a benign breast disease, but it was a harrowing several weeks between finding my lump and receiving my diagnosis. An experience that I will never forget.

My Story...
On the morning of January 4, I was doing a breast-self exam while lying bed and found a lump on the lower, outer area of my right breast. It felt about the size and shape of an almond in its shell, and since it was close to the surface, I could put fingers around it and move it. Startled, I went to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. I raised my arm over my head and moved my breast aside and saw the shape of the lump protrude under my skin. I tried to remain calm and optimistic that this could be something benign, but boy that is WAY harder than it sounds. I admit that the fear that I was going to start a battle with cancer was hard to tamp down, but I tried my best to think positively.

I called my gynecologist as soon as her office opened and was grateful that she saw me that same afternoon. She reassured me that she was confident it was a benign tumor but ordered an ultrasound to decide the next step. I had an ultrasound about two days later, but the lump was un-imagable, indicating that the lump tissue was the same density as the surrounding breast tissue. When my gynecologist got the results a few days later, she referred me to a breast care specialist, whom I saw about a week or so later.

The breast care specialist is a surgeon who specializes in breast care and breast diseases. He concurred with my gynecologist with the likely diagnosis of a benign tumor, and because the lump was palpable and easily accessible, the best and most thorough course of action would be to surgically remove the tumor and have it sent to the lab for evaluation. So that's what we did. Two weeks later, on the morning of that horrendous ice storm that hit the East Coast on February 2, 2011, I had a lumpectomy on my breast. A week later, my breast care physician called me with the histological results and informed me that the tumor was indeed benign and my official diagnosis is a breast disease known as Pseudoangiomatous Stromal Hyperplasia of the Breast, also referred to as PASH. PASH is a rare, but benign breast disease that causes the proliferation of stromal lesions or tumors in the breast. It is a huge relief to know PASH is always a benign disease, but because it is a recurring [can happen again] and proliferative [grows and spreads quickly] disease, I am being diligent about doing monthly self-exams so I can find any future tumors early. The doctor has implied that it's likely I'll never have another PASH tumor, but if I do find one, it's likely another PASH tumor and not a cancerous type of tumor. From what I understand, PASH is more closely linked to progesterone receptors as opposed to estrogen receptors, which is good news for me since malignant breast diseases are more closely linked to estrogen, not progesterone.

Fortunately, my diagnosis has a positive prognosis. If I had not found the lump early, it could have proliferated and been more difficult to remove if it had grew very large or spread to other areas of my breast. Or if the lump was not caused by PASH but by a malignant breast disease, and I had not found it early, the course of treatment could have proven more complicated and even life threatening. But those scenarios didn't pan out because I do self-exams.

So here I am, proof positive that Breast Self-Exams are a valuable part of a breast care plan and I emphasize how important it is that YOU take this component of breast care screening into your own hands--literally!--an do Breast Self-Exams.

For information on how to do Breast Self-Exams, talk to your health care provider.

You can also find a lot of accurate information on breast care and how to do Breast Self-Exams from reliable sources online. Here are a few links to get you started:

Susan G. Komen Cure: Breast Self-Exam

American Cancer Society: Breast Cancer Detection  The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam

WebMD: Breast Self Exam Tool
WebMD Breast Self-Exam

Please love your breasts... do breast self-exams! 


  1. Hi Christine! Thanks for sharing your story! Glad to hear that outcome was not that of cancer. I encourage everyone to do self breast exams as well. I personally know a breast cancer survivor and catching it early is very important. It's such an easy thing to do in bed or while showering that there's no excuse not to.

  2. Oh, sweetie, I had no idea you were going through that. Thank heavens it was benign!

    And in that odd "our lives seem to parallel" way, I got the call last month following my annual mammogram that I needed follow up views, along with a followup pelvic ultrasound (had one same day as my mammo).

    So I spent my birthday being squashed, poked and prodded. We thankfuly got the news that the mammo was clear just yesterday. So I agree: love your breasts. Often and well.

  3. Thank you SO much for your story

  4. Thanks for sharing that with us!

    Yours is a great example of how important it is to do self-exams on a regular basis. I also think that no matter your age you need to take care of your health and that includes having checkups. I know this is Breast Cancer Awareness month but my best friend’s husband is 24 and earlier this year he was diagnosed with Kidney cancer, fortunately they caught it on time and he’s responding really well to the treatment, but it was such a shock because he’s so young, and you never expect something like that to happen to you, let alone at that age. So we all need to take care of ourselves and that means going to the doctor, doing self-exams and most importantly enjoy life because you never know.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. You're right that self examinations should be a regular part of a woman's life. You've reminded me to get back in the habit!

    I hope your week has started well!

  6. So glad it was not malignant and you are a-ok now. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story. My grandma died of breast and lung cancer before I Was even born so it's kind of a topic that always comes close to my heart.
    I'm glad to hear your diagnosis wasn't bad.

  8. Thank you Christine!! I had a good friend pass away from breast cancer 2 years ago. She was only 39.

    I have a hard time doing self-exams because I am naturally lumpy - but I had a scare this year also. It turned out to be a cyst, but it sure brings home the fact about how important it is to get your mammogram every year.

  9. Thank you all for taking the time to read my post and leave such great comments, sharing so many of your own stories.

    I just wanted to share a tip that my Breast Doctor gave me. The typical recommendation is to do your BSE in the middle of your cycle when your breasts aren't tender. However, because our breasts go through cyclic changes during the month, it's really hard to pinpoint one day that's always the same for your body every month. The one day of your cycle that you can pinpoint with certainty is the first day of your period, because the physical evidence is pretty obvious-- spelled out in red for you! My doctor recommends his patients do their BSE on the first day of menstruation. Your breast tissue will be consistent on this day month to month and it's an easy to remember to do your BSE.

    Agreed! It takes less than 5 minutes to do a BSE--in bed or in the shower is when I do mine, too! There's no excuse not to do it once a month.

    I planned on blogging about my situation in January-February, but I kept delaying it until I had some concrete news and then I was just so drained by it all that I just let it go. I figured I'd get it up here eventually when the time was right and I could use my story as an example to other women on the importance of BSEs.

    Wow, it sure looks like you went through the female wringer lately. I'm SO relieved you had a positive outcome. xo

    Thanks for reading it and re-tweeting my post to get the word out on BSEs.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you! We all need to be proactive with our health and have regular checkups. Thank goodness your best friend's husband is doing so well with his treatment. It is SO scary to hear so many young people being diagnosed with such serious diseases. And YES! We need to cherish and enjoy life EVERY DAY. :)

    Yes, get back in the habit! :B

    Thanks! And you're welcome for the reminder. :)

    I'm sorry to hear of your grandma's cancers. So sad. Thanks for reading my post.

    I'm so sorry your friend lost her battle to breast cancer and at such a young age, too. So horrible. :(

    I'm glad your scare resulted with a good prognosis, too. xo

  10. Thank you so much Christine for sharing your experience and getting the word out.

    I started having mamos when I turned 40 and have only had one scare. One year the results came back as abnormal and I was told I needed to have another mamo in 6 months instead of 1 year. Those were a long 6 months! Thankfully everything was fine and my last mamo, last month, came back normal.

  11. So happy that you are okay now :)

    Nice of you to remind us of those self-exams. I always forget :P

  12. Thanks, Chrissy for sharing. And for everyone sharing here. :)

  13. *hugs*. Glad it was benign, but still scary. That Cancer.. a horrible thing.

  14. Leslie,
    I'm so glad your results came back normal! Phew!

    Thanks, sweetie! Don't forget to check out your breasts! ;)

    Lot's of caring and sharing going on among women. It's great, isn't it?

    Thanks! It was a nerve-wracking time, but yeah... incredibly relieved my thing is benign.

  15. Wow Christine, that is really scary! I'm glad that you figured out what was going on and that it was benign. It is a good lesson to all of us that we need to keep up on our health in order to catch things early and figure out what is going on before it could be too late.

  16. Yes! You are never too young to start BSEs. The more regularly you do it, the more familiar you get with your own body and you'll know when something isn't right.


Leave a comment! I love to hear what YOU think.
[I apologize, but I've had to disallow anonymous users to comment on my blog due to an influx of spam. I'll change it back as soon as I can. Thanks for understanding.]