Posted 2/11/2012 10:32 AM (GMT -7)
I don't say this to scare you, but I was right where you are 17 years ago. I was 36, found a lump that felt different from the usual, watched it through a couple of cycles, and there was no change. Went to a new family doctor (we had just moved), who also found the same small lump, as well as a second one, and some enlarged lymph nodes. He ordered my first mammogram, which showed nothing significant, but did note dense breast tissue. This is where our stories part. My new doctor called a surgeon, made me an appointment himself, and then called me and told me to go, even though I didn't see the need if the mammo said "no indication of cancer." (I learned later that as many as 30% of breast cancers aren't found on a mammogram, largely because of dense breast tissue.) The surgeon didn't think my little lumps were anything, didn't feel anything under the arm, but would do a biopsy because my doctor had been so insistent. I was diagnosed with two different types of invasive breast cancer before the surgeon had even finished closing the incision. When I had my mastectomy, there was also lymph node involvement. I love that family doctor!
Now for the good news. Yes, odds are definitely on your side that this will be nothing. Enlarged lymph nodes can mean a lot of different things, only one of which is cancer. This is because the nodes act as "filters" for the lymphatic system and are often the first indication of cancerous invasion. But they are much more likely to be an indication of an infection. Lymph node involvement in breast cancer is fairly common, and it usually just means treatment needs to be more aggressive than if it is not present. (In other words... chemotherapy to destroy any stray cells that may have gotten by the "filtration system.") Even if this is cancer, the 6-8 months that have passed since your initial mammogram is not very long, in terms of most breast cancers, which are typically slow growing. So that is the good news.
As for a second opinion, I think it depends on how comfortable you feel with the doctor's recommendations after the digital mammo and us. If he recommends a biopsy, I wouldn't really find a need for a second opinion, I'd just go head and have it. A small price to pay for peace of mind. If he doesn't recommend a biopsy, I would want to feel that I had a clear and complete explanation of why there is a lump and why there are enlarged lymph nodes, and I would probably want a second opinion that concurs.
I didn't know anyone with breast cancer 17 years ago, either. And if I had had a doctor who told me "it was nothing," I never would have even thought to ask for another opinion or insist on a biopsy. I didn't have the internet or support groups. So I'm glad I'm able to share my experience with you. Again, not to scare you, but just to let you know that you need to be your own best advocate and get the answers you need to feel comfortable and safe in your own body.
Hope this helps...
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