Like many lucky women in the UK I’ve been part of a national screening programme which offers regular mammograms to women over the age of 50 every three years. In some areas, women as young as 48 are part of the programme and naturally those who have a family history of high risk are screened too.
My mammogram experience was just like any other, momentarily uncomfortable and slightly awkward as you try and chat about the weather when a fairly personal part of you is being squashed mercilessly and you just want it to STOP! Once it was finished, I got dressed and said my goodbyes and was told they’d see me in three years’ time and I’d get a letter with the results in about 10 days.
Three days later as I returned from work I gathered up the post at the front door, popped the kettle on, nipped to the bathroom and then returned to thumb through the mail. All mostly regular stuff apart from one envelope marked ‘private and confidential’ that had that ominous feel to it. The letter informed me that something had been spotted on my scans that caused concern and further investigation was needed. The text added that ‘it may be nothing to be concerned about’, I’m guessing to support neutrality here and try to reduce anxiety. It didn’t work.
An appointment had been made for me, three days later on the Monday to attend the Breast Clinic and I should allow 3 hours for this appointment.
<insert worried weekend>
Monday eventually arrived and at the Breast Clinic I was seen immediately by a radiographer who explained that my scan had shown that I had a cyst. Relief washed through me, I thought I knew a little about cysts, mostly they turn out to be benign, filled with fluid and can be drained. Job done. Another mammogram was required (again? really?) then I’d see the Consultant who would probably drain it and ensure that all was well.
I’m going to skip some of my story here and probably come back to elements of it, but the long and the short of it is that by investigating the cyst and the surrounding area further through ultra-sound my Consultant saw an area ‘that’s concerns me very much’ and I had a core biopsy done (think apple corer and you’re not far off- thank goodness for local anaesthetics that eventually work) and this is where this story really starts; 7 days later we received my Breast Cancer diagnosis.
Thank goodness for that cyst. It’s probably saved if not my life, then at least a whole lot of grot, groaning and stuff that I and my family would rather not think about, at least until we have to.
And the moral of the story? Make sure you attend your screenings. They save lives.
We played around with a few names for this blog including princess and the pea (thank you Faye) since the tumour is roughly the size of a pea but kept coming back to the sheer luck of me having a cyst so, Cystaract it is 🙂