Once again, I go down to my surgeon to check on some strange lump and bump on the other side that feels different and a little tender and hurtsy. I now feel better about these things when they come up. I know that more than 80% of the time, a bump is going to be benign. It was nothing, just a cyst that was very close to the skin.
But Before I knew my bump was cancer in 2009, it felt tender and hurtsy, but it did not change its shape or hardness. That stayed pretty consistent. I told the first doctor (my GYN that missed the cancer the first time) that it was uncomfortable, and that it "hurt". She said, "pain is not associated with breast cancer", and she sent me on my way to come back for my annual next year.
My breast kept hurting. My tumor was associated with pain. Maybe I was lucky becuase the tumor was very close to a nerve and pressing on it, which is probably the reason why I felt it in the first place. After my diagnosis, and my therapy, I sent a letter to that first doctor. The one that said that my pain was not cancer. She felt the bump and said it was "nothing". So it was 8 months before I had it checked again and got my diagnosis. I let her know that she should have sent me to get an ultrasound. She should have sent me on a referral.
Doctor's don't have magic fingers to know that a bump is NOT cancer. They also do not know what it may mean when a woman says, "this hurts". In my case, it felt uncomfortable, it hurt when I hugged someone, I could not sleep on my stomach because it felt like there was a rock inside my breast with pointy shards of glass in it--or prickly, like a cactus. Maybe when I said that my tumor "hurt" I meant this, maybe I meant that it feels this way. But a doctor thinks about "pain" as a wound or a gash that is gushing blood! Or maybe a broken bone that if you touch it you scream, "OUCH!". But pain is very different for everyone.
So, last month when I went in because of a cyst on the other breast that felt hurtsy and tender, I was again told that "the pain of my cyst is not associated with cancer". Well, the first pain was cancer, so I would like to get an ultrasound this time.
I said to the new physician's assistant, "when I say 'pain', what do you think I mean by that?" She went on and on about how cancer does not hurt, usually, and that tumors don't hurt because the breast does not have many nerves, etc. I let the PA know that I was told that once before, and it delayed my diagnosis by 8 months. That even if someone talks about pain, we really need to "listen" to what it means when the patient says she is in pain.
When I talked with the cancer survivor group at the hospital there were about 9 women. Of those 9 women, 8 of them said that their breast cancer "hurt" before they knew it was cancer. Part of the reason why they went to the doctor in the first place was this strange feeling of prickly pain, or heat in their breast, or just an uncomfortable heaviness. Some found their tumors, others did not find anything but felt "painful" sensations like pressure, or itching.