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What is it like to undergo a breast lump surgery

After being diagnosed with fibroadenoma, it took me months before deciding to undergo the procedure that was over within an hour.

Anis Nabilah
Anis Nabilah

Published: 22 April 2020, 12:00 AM

I can still remember the first time I felt a lump in my breast. It was January in 2019 when I spontaneously decided to do a random self-administered breast check.

Immediately, the ‘C’ word came to mind once I felt a few lumps, believing it to be a warning sign of breast cancer. Tears started welling up in my eyes and I went to sleep that night hoping that it was just my imagination.

Thankfully, it was just fibroadenoma, a benign tumour. No cancer.

I had two of my breast lumps removed in December 2019, and I have been lump-free ever since.

I rarely hear others talk candidly about medical situations such as mine so I hope that my experience undergoing a breast lump operation will inspire you to pay more attention to your health.

Getting diagnosed with fibroadenoma

I was caught off-guard when I first found out about the lumps. I thought I was far too young to have any serious illnesses as I was only 18 back then.

I put off going to the doctor for months as I kept imagining the worst-case scenario. I did not want to confront the reality of possibly having a critical illness.

My procrastination was also partly due to being swamped with schoolwork and later, taking part in a school camp which required a lot of my energy and time.

Finally, a trip to my General Practitioner (GP) in April revealed that I might have fibroadenoma or “breast mouse” – I promise it’s not as gross as it sounds. My GP then referred me to an ultrasound imaging centre to get a definite diagnosis.

 

The ultrasound technician applied cold gel to my chest and used the probe to locate the breast lumps.
Photo credit: Youth.sg/Anis Nabilah

 

Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with fibroadenomas. The lump I had detected was actually made up of two big lumps, while the other six were too small for me to notice.

When I asked how the lumps had formed in my breast, my GP explained that fibroadenoma is a common tumour of the breast and is usually made up of connective and glandular tissue. There was no rhyme or reason as to why I had developed them.

My GP assured me that fibroadenoma has no known risk factors. It was thus my choice to get them removed or not, since it did not really bother or hinder my lifestyle.

Undergoing a breast biopsy

For seven months, I deferred getting my breast lumps removed. Since my GP had told me the lumps were non-cancerous, I did not think it was urgent to remove them.

I only changed my mind when I realised the breast lumps had grown bigger in size.

 

My GP wrote me a reference letter in case I changed my mind and wanted to get them removed.
Photo credit: Youth.sg/Anis Nabilah

 

When I finally decided to get them removed, the breast specialist I consulted explained that I first had to undergo a biopsy so that samples from my breast lumps could be examined.

A nurse prepared me for the procedure and my doctor administered an injection to numb my breast. He then used a special tool to collect samples from the two biggest breast lumps that were identified through an ultrasound scan.

I did not feel any pain, but I remember feeling some pressure from the apparatus swiftly pushing down on my chest as it collected the samples. It reminded me of a piercing gun.

To my relief, the biopsy result confirmed that the breast lumps were benign.

 

The results from the biopsy revealed the exact size and placement of each breast lump I had.
Photo credit: Youth.sg/Anis Nabilah

 

I was supposed to rest after the biopsy, but I felt fine enough to head out and interview someone for a school assignment.

Between the biopsy and the actual surgery, I attended many other consultations so that my doctor could monitor the breast lumps and determine how to remove them.

Despite being happy about getting rid of the breast lumps soon, I worried about the cost of surgery. Fortunately, I was able to use my parents’ MediSave to offset the surgery costs.

Preparing for surgery 

The surgery could only take place after I met with an anesthesiologist who would determine if I was healthy enough to go under anaesthesia.

In preparation for my procedure, I had to fast the night before.

Despite my mom being worried, I was actually excited to undergo surgery as it was a new experience for me. I had also been assured that it was a low-risk excision biopsy.

The only worry I had about the operation was going under general anaesthesia as I had heard about anaesthesia awareness. Fortunately, I was knocked out cold throughout the entire procedure.

The anesthesiologist first administered anaesthesia medication through a line into my vein. Then, I was rolled into the operating room where I breathed gas through a mask and did the classic counting down from 10 until suddenly, everything cut to black. 

 

Even with painkillers, the pain from the intravenous injection in my left hand was the most agonising feeling I had experienced.
Photo credit: Youth.sg/Anis Nabilah

 

Once I came round, it had been maybe an hour or two after the procedure, and I felt groggy.

I could not recall actually being under the knife since I was unconscious. From the dressing on my breast, I could tell that everything went smoothly and my breast lumps had been removed. I was only allowed to leave the day surgery ward after the side effects of anaesthesia had worn off. 

 

As I waited for the side effects of anaesthesia to wear off, I indulged in taking some selfies to document the experience before getting the all-clear to leave the hospital.
Photo credit: Youth.sg/Anis Nabilah

 

The aftermath 

It has been more than a year since I was diagnosed with fibroadenoma.

While the most unpleasant aspect from the whole experience remains the scars from my surgery (and paying the hospital bills), it could have gone a totally different way if I did not detect my breast lumps early and go to get them checked out.

Looking back, I regret putting off consulting my doctor, using lame excuses like school. I am fortunate to not have been diagnosed with something more serious.

With fibroadenoma occurring in mostly women aged 15 to 35, I think it’s important to pay attention to any changes your body might go through and conduct a breast check every now and then. Maybe even do one after reading this!

Remember to keep yourself healthy and safe.


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