It’s just a cyst. It’s just an infection. It’s just a rash.
I’ve heard these words so often that I’ve decided they name a new disease: itsjusta.
People fear cancer. And women fear breast cancer probably more than any other type. Unlike cancers that do their dirty work deep in our livers or intestines, breast cancer is right up front where we can touch it and see it. It’s right there in the part of us that is the symbol of our femininity.
So when we have a lump that turns out not to be cancer, we sigh with relief and say, “It’s just a cyst,” or “It’s just a fibroadenoma.”
When our breast turns red and hard and we spike a fever, we are relieved to hear our doctor tell us, “It’s just mastitis.”
These are perfectly natural reactions, but I’d like to declare war on itsjusta. I’m going to try to eliminate itsjusta from my vocabulary. Here’s why.
First, itsjusta diminishes the importance of treating other breast problems. At a luncheon of breast cancer survivors recently, two had been hospitalized recently with staph infections in their breasts. These were dangerous infections that required IV antibiotics to clear up. When we suspect that we have a breast infection and delay seeing the doctor because we tell ourselves, “It’s just an infection; it’s not cancer,” we risk big health problems. An untreated infection could kill us much faster than breast cancer.
When we see the doctor about a painful breast lump and it turns out to be “just a cyst,” we may be so relieved that we don’t ask the doctor about what can be done to relieve our discomfort. Painful breast cysts can usually be drained. We don’t need to suffer.
Second, itsjusa may mask breast cancer. “It’s just a bruise,” many inflammatory breast cancer patients have said. They don’t remember getting bumped, and they wonder why it hasn’t healed after three weeks. But itsjusta keeps them from seeing the doctor until their breast is red all over, hot, and swollen.
My friend Katherine died from itsjusta. Like many women, she had a history of breast cysts. When she developed a new lump, she delayed seeing the doctor thinking, it’s just another cyst. But as it grew, she realized that it didn’t feel like her other cysts, so she went in to see her doctor. This time it was the doctor who had itsjusta. He wanted to wait to see if it went down with her next period before doing anything. Katherine wasn’t convinced, but she trusted her doctor and went home to wait. The lump was the size of an egg when she went back and insisted on a biopsy.
Katherine was the first breast cancer patient I knew well. Our children played together and were still very young when she was diagnosed. She seemed to do well after her first round of cancer treatment. But it recurred a few years later, and she died still in her forties leaving three little girls. You could say she succumbed to itsjusta.
All breast changes need to be checked out; however, we don’t need to be paranoid about breast problems. Most women will never get breast cancer, and most of those who do will recover and live long lives. We are more likely to die of heart disease. So our focus should be on overall health. Taking care of infections and cysts is one important part of being a healthy person. Saying itsjusta is an insidious threat to our health.
Don’t succumb to itsjusta. Be proactive about all of your breast health issues.
Published On: July 20, 2009