"Not enough support when being checked for breast cancer"
Posted by fissshface (as ),
I have had a sore breast for over 2 months now. Being responsible about my health, I went to the doctors where I was examined, and no obvious sign of lumps was present, so asked to come back again in three weeks, which I did. Upon continued pain and general soreness in my left breast, the doctor referred me to have a check up at BGH.
I have had soreness before and 10 years ago was referred to the Lynda McCartney Centre (LMC) in Liverpool Royal Hospital for check up there. I have to say the difference was like night and day.
It was a speedy referral, to which I was grateful. You hear all kinds of worrying news stories about breast cancer, and so your anxiety levels are already high by the time you get to the hospital.
At LMC you walk into a dedicated centre for Breast Cancer. At BGH you are sent to an outpatients clinic.
Already my anxiety was up, but when I went into the waiting room, and realised I was surrounded by lots of, generally, men and older people and I felt more anxious. I wanted to go home immediately, but needed to get this pain checked out. I was sent to a room where I was asked to undress and put a robe on, behind a curtain and left for what felt like an eternity. Then a gentleman came into the room, took a very brief history, and examined me. I wanted to die. In LMC you feel safe, because everyone you go to are women, and I know men can get breast cancer too, but I felt safe in that it was a dedicated centre with young women consultants, no men in sight, no men examining you. Is this just me?
The consultant was nothing but professional, if not somewhat abrupt, telling me there would be nothing to worry about if it was just pain and asked if I had heard of Oil of Evening Primrose?
Of course I have, it's a face cream isn't it? I felt stupid having troubled him now and the feeling that I would definitely never return here, pain or no pain, and if ever I felt I had cancer again, I'd be asked to referred to another hospital as I never wanted to experience this level of anxiety that was unacknowledged, and then almost made to feel stupid that I had bothered them.
Surely I should have known I had to take a herbal remedy for 4 months before bothering them. I'm sure this is not the message the consultant had intended to get across, but I felt awkward, that I'd inconvenienced them, and that this could be a positive, that it had ruled out the anxiety in my mind. And for every 10 people that go through the same as me with pain and anxiety, maybe one of them you could save their life by early diagnosis of breast cancer.
I had to then dress and go back out with all the other older patients both male and female and wait to be called to the mammogram where I had to undress and robe up again, and again, the radiologist was nothing but professional. I commented how this whole experience was not pleasant, she thought I meant the mammogram but I was referring to being there in general, and the vulnerability I felt being amongst the general public, the anxiety around being examined by male consultants and that they did nothing to put my mind at ease. No I have no family history but I know people that have died with breast cancer also with no family history.
The mammogram completed, I was asked to wait again in the general area, and then someone came to me and asked me to go and get a coffee as there was a technical problem for 15 minutes! What - does that not mean alarm bells are ringing? Does that mean they have bad news and are looking at it again as to make sure? My anxiety was through the roof. I said I'd prefer to wait and so they sent me 20 yards to another waiting room, which seemed pointless to me, but eventually I was called back and I returned to the consultant who told me I was all clear.
It was the worse experience I've ever had largely caused by my own anxiety levels, and the hospital doing nothing to help me manage my anxiety levels whilst being checked out. I won't return to BGH with any form or breast pain in the future, I will ask to be referred to another hospital nearby, after having researched patient reviews at my nearby options in future before I visit my GP. I won't ever be putting myself through that experience again, and I'd advise anyone who has breast pain, and has the option, to go elsewhere based on my experience.
I was naive to think everywhere was like LMC, or had dedicated clinics to handling women where were thinking they had breast cancer. I was hoping that men with testicular cancer may have similar outreach and provision to allay their embarrassment and fears too. Not so. I have only my own naivety and expectations that I can manage in the future. If you have breast pain, get it checked out. I didn't get this message, nor did I feel that I had done the right thing by 'bothering' them with this pain. I felt I left with a flea in my ear and told to go and buy herbal remedies to sort it out. No other information, advice, reinforcement of I did the right thing.
Hope this can change. If I had been 25 and this experience had happened to me, I would have been mortified.