Breast Cancer Awareness Month: my 10-year breast lump story (details on cost, check up, duration of surgery, etc.)

Disclaimer: I am not a registered physician. This is just my personal experience and should not take the place of medical advice.

I’d been contemplating on whether I’d post this or not for months now. My hesitations I guess come from the what ifs inside my head. But, today, I am conquering my fear and finally writing this. It is not a big thing to others but thinking that I might be able to help someone with this post is one of the factors I am putting this out.

When did I first feel the lump of my life?

My mother and aunt had also a lump history when they were younger so it is highly likely that I’d get a lump in my lifetime. I was taught by my mother the most basic way to check for a lump – feeling your right breast with your left hand and your left breast with your right hand while lying down or standing up. I have been doing this I think 3 years after I had my first period every month. One day, I felt a circular hard lump in my right breast. I double, triple, nth time checked and I even compared it with my left breast but I knew back then that it was not normal. I could not remember the exact month but it was in 2007 I think because I was in high school that time.

What did I do when I first felt an unusual lump in my breast?

To be honest, I did nothing but I was scared. I did not even tell my parents about it because our family was under financial crisis and I was thinking that I should not add another burden to our existing problem. As a teenager trying to be a silent hero in the family I just thought that I’d rather keep it and die. And I realised later on that it is okay to tell it to your family because they will understand and find ways to find a remedy to the situation.

How long did I keep it to myself?

Are you going to give me credits if I tell you that I did not keep this secret from my family for 10 years? LOL. During my freshman medical exam, one of the requirements was to get a medical examination in which a doctor will check you for lumps. Of course I could not hide it from a doctor so she told me about it and advised me to tell my parents. And guess what? I told my parents about it. Look who’s obedient here. LOL. My parents told me to get it removed ASAP. But again, wonder woman wannabe here did not do what was needed to be done. I was not scared of the pain, I was thinking it might cost a fortune. I finished my college degree with my lump still in me. So basically around 6-7 years had passed already.I just hoped that it was benign.

When did I decide to get a surgery? (cost, pre and post check-ups, surgery duration, recovery period)

My first, second and third work did not require me to get physical examination and you already know what’s next…I still did not get surgery after 3 years of working. I had thoughts of what if this and that. I do not have a million in my savings yet. Just like a typical person who is not confident with the budget on hand, I did self research about lumps. I could not find the exact cost of surgery. Every blog I read would tell me to get a check up because that’s when I’d know how much would it be. But I needed exact numbers. I heard chemotherapy and radiation cost thousands and I was sure I could not afford it.

I did more research on signs of cancerous lump (WHICH BTW I DON’T RECOMMEND. JUST GO SEEK A DOCTOR WHENEVER YOU FEEL A LUMP IN YOUR BREAST). My parents were nagging me from time to time to get the lump removed but I was stubborn because according to my self research – my lump was benign (and again do not do it. GET A DOCTOR TO PROPERLY DIAGNOSE YOU!) which I was still not sure and anxious about.

I started my graduate studies 2 years after I started working. One of the perks of studying in that university I was taking my grad studies is you get cheaper to no cost of check ups and discounted medical procedures. I was thinking to get the surgery before I finish my studies to get big discount. So a year before I graduate I finally decided to undergo surgery, however, working and studying were never easy back then because both demanded large portion of my time. Good thing, every December we would get mandatory leaves starting from a week before Christmas and we would resume work after New Year’s Eve. And as every students know, this is also Christmas break. The perfect time for my surgery.

Here’s the timeline of activities before and after surgery:

First week of December: I asked a friend who was her surgeon when she had a breast lump surgery. She referred me to her doctor. As what she had told me, the surgeon was really nice. Never did she make me feel uncomfortable nor intimidated. Her initial diagnosis was it was benign because the margin was clean but she told me to get ultrasound. The check up was around 400 pesos.

Second week of December: I got the ultrasound and even the doctor who did my ultrasound was surprised to know that I had the lump for 10 years. She second the motion what my surgeon told me. I was happy to know that. I forgot the exact amount for the ultrasound but I am sure it was less than 1000 pesos. I went back to my surgeon to give her the results. She told me that I have a choice on whether I’d remove it or not. But since I already started the process might as well finish it. I had 4 check ups and 1 ultrasound before the surgery. I was also given 2 options for the surgery: 1. Local anaesthesia: I’d be awake and only the part where the lump was located will get numbed; 2. General anaesthesia is where you are totally unconscious and unaware of the procedure. I chose the first one because it was cheaper (~5000 pesos if you have PhilHealth) instead of the second choice (~13,000 pesos with PhilHealth).

Third week of December: I was scheduled for an out-patient surgery. Guess what again? I only told my family about my surgery a day before the procedure! I was planning to do it alone because it was just an out-patient. Good thing, they did not allow me to go to the hospital all by myself because before and after surgery I needed someone to fill out forms.

During the surgery: I was conscious. There was only one nurse that assisted my doctor in the operating room. Like in the movies, you’d see the lights that looked like honeycomb or the surgical light. I changed my clothes to a hospital gown. The skin where incision was done was sterilised first followed by the injection of anaesthesia. There was initially no pain but as the cut gets deeper I got to feel pain and told the doctor. She added anaesthesia and when I had my full dose and still felt a little pain I remember that they put metal plate under my leg which I think to divert the pain. It was a fast surgery – around 2 hours. My doctor even showed my the lump she got. After closing, I changed back to my clothes, pay the bills and bought the prescribed medicine (pain reliever and antibiotic).

Recovery: The lump they got from me was brought to a biopsy lab to get checked if it was benign or cancerous. I needed to wait for a week to get the results from the lab. The doctor told me that I will be able to go back to normal 2-3 weeks after the surgery. After 2-3 weeks I was able to go back to work and I even went to the hospital to get the results of the biopsy test and thank the heavens it was benign.

Bonus advice: SEEK A DOCTOR the soonest you felt a lump in your breast. Tell someone about it.