Pink October: How breast self-exam saved Joyce’s life

Monday October 8 2018

Dr. Christopher Peterson

Dr. Christopher Peterson 

Joyce was doing all fine, until one day when she noticed something that didn’t look normal around her breast. It actually happened when she was in bathroom taking a shower after her daily work-out session. She then got worried and decided to call me to share the matter.

According Joyce, she felt tender in a particular side of the breast. It didn’t sound like a lump yet, but the area was hard and tender upon touching, as she explains. She got really worried about that.

During that phone conversation, Joyce also told me that she was about to start her menstruation in a week to come. I advised her to stay calm as sometimes breast changes are caused by hormonal changes that commonly happen when a woman is about to begin/during her cycle.

But I also cautioned her to keep a close watch at it and report to me immediately if it still persists after the periods.

As she was performing breast self-exam, she noticed that the tenderness is still persistent even two weeks after her menses, and that’s when I advised her to come to the hospital for further check-up

What happened at the hospital?

To manage her case, I did a simple physical exam on the tender area of the breast and then orderd for the CT scan of breast [the radiological imaging of the breast]. The CT scan report showed that it was a mini solid mass with ill-defined borders on it.

With this report, I had my bets that the lump might just be cancerous. I then urgently ordered a breast biopsy to confirm and evaluate the stage of her cancer. I allowed her to come back a week later for the biopsy results.

When she came back for the biopsy results, I was able to break the news of her breast cancer, as the biopsy results clearly showed she had stage 1A breast cancer. But Joyce was lucky that her cancer was detected at a very early stage, meaning it’s treatable completely.

Her cancer was treatable

To treat her cancer, Joyce had to go through several rounds of radiation and six weeks of chemotherapy. Four months later she was told to come back to the hospital for evaluation and the CT scan this time showed the tumor was totally gone and Joyce was happy to be back to her normal life.

“Ever since I heard about breast self-exam,I made it to be part of my lifestyle. For years now, I have never spent two days without thoroughly examining my breasts. Now I can sit back and realise, just how important is breast self-exam. It has really saved my life, I can never imagine catching my cancer at later stage, where would I be now, basing on the fact that it didn’t show any symptom, neither any pain. Self exam really saves lives, as it did mine,” Joyce said when she was done with treatment.

My take

We paint this month pink to bring awareness on breast cancer and early detection. One of the ways we always emphasise people to combat this fatal disease, is early detection. Just like Joyce, I urge all women to build the habit of physically examining their breasts.

Early detection of breast cancer is always a palm away, so stay safe!