Six weeks ago, in the shower one day, I noticed that I was bleeding from my nipple, just from one breast and it was just a small amount – only a few drops. In fact I wasn’t overly concerned until later that day I was doing my washing and found blood stains in several of my bras and even on one of my shirts. In Australia, it’s Winter and I’d been so rugged up keeping warm that I hadn’t really noticed before then.
At first I looked on the internet to find out what it could be thinking there was probably a perfectly innocent explanation and I didn’t want to over-react. This is why I’m sharing my story here in the hope that it might help other women looking for information. By the way, I’m a young 34 years of age, am not pregnant and have not had a child.
There was lots of information online about ‘rusty pipes’ which is blood women who are lactating sometimes experience. And I found lots of references to runners (mostly men) who had problems with bleeding nipples caused by chaffing but I couldn’t see anything that applied to me, other than very scary references to breast cancer. I don’t know if it’s true but some information I found suggested that bleeding from one duct was worse so I was hoping like heck that I could find it coming from more than one but nope it seemed to be just one. Still, I refused to let myself be scared.
In the past, I’ve had doctors tell me very scary things about my health, diagnose me (falsely as I eventually discovered) with a life threatening illness and I let it eat me up with worry thinking literally that I was probably going to die. It wasn’t until years later that I was told I’d received a false positive and it all turned out to be nothing. So now I refuse to let myself get that worked up, the stress is worse!
Anyway, I couldn’t get any information online about bleeding nipples so I went to my next resource – I sent a text message to my Mom and best friend, Allayne. They’re full of lots of great common sense and have seen a lot of things and may have heard something that I hadn’t, like the time I had blood in my urine and thought I must be bleeding internally (LOL result of watching too much ER). I then was very embarrassed to find out later from them it is very common and a quick trip to the drug store to pick up some Ural would soon fix it. Allayne had heard about ‘rusty pipes’ but nothing that would apply to me. Mom, a former nurse, told me not to be concerned but to get it checked out.
I couldn’t put it off any longer so I made the appointment with a doctor who had been highly recommended by a friend who had brain cancer. I had seen the doctor give a public lecture and I’d been quite impressed by his holistic, very natural approach. By the time I saw him I worked out it had been happening for almost 10 days and by that time the bleeding had lessened quite a bit. Now there was just a small amount when I gently pressed or ‘expressed’ and it seemed to be less bloody like there was clear liquid with just a trace of blood. I was relieved thinking that my body was healing itself and the doctor would find it was something completely normal and that would be the end of it.
Turns out that he had a lot of young women patients who had breast cancer and although he has a strong natural approach he made it very clear that I needed to take this seriously and get it checked out.
He surprised me by consulting a breast surgeon who recommended a mammogram, ultrasound and cytology (getting a sample of the blood/fluid) and she said when I got the mammogram and ultrasound, they would probably also recommend a biopsy to be sure. My doctor told the surgeon that if it turned out to be nothing that I’d probably refuse the recommended biopsy and she said that in that case I should have followup mammograms every 6 months.
The next day I tried getting the cytology done but by this stage the bleeding had stopped and there was just a tiny amount of almost clear liquid and I was unable to get enough fluid out to do the tests.
A few days later I was at the Xray clinic for my ultrasound and mammogram with my Mom who I’d asked to come with me for moral support. (Yes I’m a big girl and haven’t had my Mom along for doctors appointments since I was a little girl but I just needed to know that I had someone there.) I had been told not to wear deodorant and talcum powder as it could interfere with the testing so I was feeling grateful it was winter and not a hot day!
I remembered lots of women joking about how the mammogram machine must have been designed by men and how it was quite painful. Unlike most women, I’m not good with pain so I was a bit concerned I might pass out which has happened once before when I’ve been in pain. I never expected to get a mammogram, well at least not until I was 50 so I hadn’t paid too much attention previously.
After a short wait, it was time for me to go in. Mom wasn’t allowed in and waited outside. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the radiographer was terrific and I didn’t feel embarrassed, it was similar to have a bra fitting. In the small room, I took off my shirt and bra and put it along with my things in the handy basket for me to carry from the mammogram to the ultrasound. I would be putting on a front closing gown to go between the two rooms. The radiographer was very reassuring, she explained exactly what was going to happen and how they needed to have as much tissue as possible in there. I had to turn my arm in weird positions for the machine to be able to get as much of me as possible in the picture. It felt like I practically had my armpit in there!
I don’t know whether the machine is different now but it wasn’t as bad as I was prepared for. Yes, they do squash your breasts (horizontally and then vertically, one side at a time) and it does hurt if you’ve got lumpy breasts like me but it is for a much briefer time that I thought it would be. I felt like I was in control because the radiographer slowly lowered the plates until I told her it was enough. Hold your breath, click, and the plates automatically release! After the first one when I found how quickly it releases I felt a lot more willing to put up with even more discomfort because I knew it would only hurt for a short amount of time.
The worst part for me was the next couple of days I felt a tiny amount of pain when I breathed. Oh, that sounds worse than it was. You know when you work a muscle and it’s sore a couple of days later? It was like that, more of an awareness of muscles I didn’t previously know existed. So it really wasn’t as bad as you hear.
The ultrasound was much better. If you haven’t had one, it’s just like it looks on tv, there’s cold gel and a wand is rolled slowly over your skin. Actually when I see the results I don’t know why they waste time doing the mammogram because the ultrasound seems to give a much clearer picture. Well, at least in my case. It found that I had lots of cysts [the technician said it’s normal in women of child bearing age; my doctor later told me it’s normal in women who are iodine deficient] & I also had something else that concerned them a bit. To me, the cysts looked like oval shaped black cells. The ‘something else’ looked to me very similar to the cysts but a bit like an eye – oval with a round black bit in the middle. They told me the bits that weren’t black indicated that there was fluid. The ultrasound technician and the doctor consulted and told me it was probably a ‘fibroadenoma’ and in 95% of times it’s nothing but because of my relatively young age I should definitely have a biopsy.
I cheerfully informed them thank you very much, I’m happy with 95% chance that it’s nothing and I won’t be doing the recommended biopsy. After all, I could clearly see on the scan that it had a nice cell wall and looked very nicely contained and I didn’t want anyone breaking it open. If you’ve heard the Texan Don Tolman talk about cancer, you’ll know why. He calls tumours “rubbish cans” that the body creates to store toxins and lock them away from hurting the surrounding area but I didn’t dare share that with the staff because they would have thought I was a complete nut.
They were pretty upset about me saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ and from there I got told about several of the Australian celebrities with breast cancer (Kylie Minogue, Belinda Emmett etc) and how the problem was that they were told they were too young to have breast cancer. They told me that if only they’d done something about it sooner it they could have been okay. They also told me how they are seeing younger and younger women come in and that they’d even recently found breast cancer in a teenage girl!
The report that went to my doctor said they found “an oval solid lesion, with a transverse orientation and is well defined and would be consistent with a fibroadenoma although non specific”. Blah, blah, blah. I tried googling this too but couldn’t really find anything that helped me. My Mom and my best friend were very upset with me about my decision not to have the biopsy and pressured me to reconsider. To get them to leave me alone I told them I’d talk to my doctor. My REAL doctor who doesn’t over react and would take a natural approach.
A couple of weeks later I had my scheduled followup appointment with him along with the results of the blood and urine tests he’d gotten me do. He proceeded to sit me down and tell me how I really should have the biopsy. I was shocked! Here’s this alternative doctor recommending that I do this. I said “what about what about what the surgeon said?”. He said, that’s only if they didn’t find anything. I was confused and asked him to explain. He told me that taking even a 5% chance was too much of a risk. He got a bit dramatic to prove his point and said if I had a gun to my head and was told there was a 5% chance there was a bullet in there, would I let him pull the trigger? He said that he was seeing too many young women with breast cancer that could have been prevented and that our focus should be on first of all getting rid of cancer AND THEN focussing on preventing cancer, getting the body so well that cancer doesn’t get an opportunity. (I am paraphrasing, can’t recall his exact words.) He then went on and showed me my blood & urine tests showed a problem with my thyroid and also deficiencies in several blood levels, but that’s another story. Side note: studies have linked iodine deficiencies and mercury to breast cancer and I have a iodine deficiency and have several signs that my body is being affected by mercury in my body (amalgum fillings in my teeth).
So at my doctor’s strong encouragement, I conceded and had the biopsy last week. It’s what is called a needle biopsy and they just take a sample. The nurse and doctor who did the test were absolutely wonderful, very patient and explained the whole process thoroughly.
What I didn’t know until I was lying down was that I had to have another ultrasound (makes sense so they can find the exact location), I’d get a local anaesthetic (have I mentioned I’m really anti all drugs?) and that it went through the breast rather than the nipple. They told me they had to take 2 swabs and that I’d feel the movement of them pushing up and down. A bit like vaccuming it seemed to me on the receiving end. They also said that in about 1% of cases they don’t get enough tissue to do the sample and it has to be redone. I invited them to take a third swab while they were there so they could be absolutely sure they had enough but they said no, it looked fine. The good news was that it was ‘behaving like a fibroadenoma’ that is, like fibrous tissue which is what we were hoping it would be.
Afterwards, the nurse put pressure on the wound for a while before putting on a waterproof dressing. She was so caring, told me that I needed to stay lying down for a few more minutes, putting pressure on so it wouldn’t bruise and relax as much as possible. She didn’t want me doing anything with that arm, not even picking up my handbag and asked if there was anyone at home who could make me dinner. I think she went over the top but it was so nice to have someone be so caring, especially when I was feeling so alone. Today, a week later, the spot where the needle went in is practically healed. I’m a slow healer so it may heal faster in other people. There’s no scar and at a quick glance it just looks like a small pink freckle.
I was told my doctor would have the results in a couple of days. We had a public holiday so it took a bit longer and I got the good news yesterday. “Results showed benign fibroadenoma. No further action required.”
Being the Google fan that I am, I did a bit more research and found “Benign fibroadenoma tumors are non-cancerous breast tumors. They are common in young women.”
Although, I was confident the whole time (well, pretty much) that it would turn out to be nothing I’m so happy to have it confirmed.