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Thursday, February 12, 2009 Jill, Community Member, asks

Q: very very scared that I have breast cancer

Had a mammogram on Tuesday because my left areola was a bit puffy. I am 42. Doctor didn't feel any lumps and didn't think the puffiness was anything and that the mammogram wouldn't show anything. Well I got a call today from the hospital that the radiologist wants me to come back for another picture of the left side.  I am very worried that I have breast cancer because my left breast hurts on a specific part if you touch it and I noticed tonight that I have a swollen lymph node on the left side of my neck/throat area. I am so scared. I cannot eat or sleep. I am achy also which leads me to think that I have advanced cancer that has spread to my bones. I am scheduled to go back to the hospital on Wednesday. I don't know how I am going to wait that long. I am worried that tomorrow I will wake up with more swollen lymph nodes.  I have 2 young children and I want to see them grow up, get married, etc...

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Answers (2)
Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
2/13/09 5:55am

Jill, I understand why you are scared.  I panicked when I got a call back after my mammogram in October.  They took more detailed pictures, did a sonogram, and confirmed that the little places the radiologist wanted to check were cysts.  Of course, I have no idea what you will find out when you go back, but most call backs are just to get a more detailed picture.  If they do find a lump, it will probably turn out to be benign as most lumps are.  You've done the right thing by contacting the doctor about your symptoms, so if it does turn out that you have cancer, it probably will be in the early stages.  Try to put this out of your mind as much as you can.  Nothing you do between now and the next test can change the outcome.  Do something fun for Valentine's Day with your family and take some really deep breaths.

PJ Hamel, Health Guide
2/13/09 6:24am

Oh, Jill... I'm sorry you're going through this. First of all, pain is very rarely a sign of breast cancer. Neither are swollen lymph nodes. Breast cancer is usually a lump - a fairly firm lump. Yes, you can have cancer in your lymph nodes, but it doesn't evidence as swollen nodes - rather, it's a lump.And chiness througout your body would most definitely not be a sign of metastasized breast cancer. Sharp pain in your shoulder or a rib - perhaps. Aching bones? No.


Realize that many, many, MANY women get called back for mammograms. And many, many have biopsies. And 85% of biopsies show nothing serious. The statistics are SO on your side here.


We've all been through the fear of "the callback." The waiting. The imagining we're going to die. The having young children, and imagining them without a mother... Yet that scenario only happens for such a small number of women, even women diagnosed with breast cancer. The majority of us - about 80% diagnosed with BC — don't die from it. We go on and live our lives.


So chances are you DON'T have cancer. Even if you do, you have every chance of living a long life. And watching your kids grow up. Statistics aren't warm and fuzzy, but hang onto these till you get through these tests. And stay in touch here, OK? Best of luck - PJH

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By Jill, Community Member— Last Modified: 11/29/10, First Published: 02/12/09