Jessica Tekla Les
During my third year of medical school I was performing a routine breast exam, more for practice than anything else. I was trying the concentric-circles-around-the-nipple technique, one of several I’d been taught. About halfway through the right breast I found a lima-bean-sized lump, not far from the breastbone. I took liberties with this particular exam. I poked the lump, tried to move the lump, squished down on the lump.
I took such liberties because it was my own breast.
At the time, I responded clinically. I thought to myself, I am twenty-seven years old, with no family history and no risk factors. Nothing to worry about. I knew the likely diagnosis, a fibroadenoma or localized fibrocystic change, both common in my age group. I double-checked a textbook to be sure, then dismissed the lump from my mind.
A month later, shortly after my twenty-eighth birthday, my primary care doctor stumbled upon the lump during an annual physical–even though I hadn’t mentioned it to her. She agreed that the lump was tender and freely mobile, the opposite of what a cancer should feel like, but she ordered an ultrasound, just to be safe.
I thought, Really?
Then fear crept in.