Moves in Medicine: Checking early and often for breast lumps

Finding a lump in your breast can be very scary, but doctors at Fox Chase Cancer Center say it's not a time to panic.

Tiffany Dillon was just 36-years-old when she found a lump in her breast.

"I was in the shower and as I'm showering I felt a lump and I thought that was strange. But because I was so young, I didn't think much of it," she said.

But then she told a colleague at work.

"She's like no I'm going to ask you every day until you get it checked out," said Tiffany.

It turned out to be stage three breast cancer. Tiffany couldn't believe it.

"I think numb, I'm so overwhelmed and scared and paralyzed all at the same time," she said.

Her treatment plan at Fox Chase Cancer Center was intense.

"I needed five months of chemo, radiation, ovaries removed and hormone therapy for five years," she said.

Dr. Richard Bleicher is a breast cancer surgical oncologist at Fox Chase. He says finding a lump doesn't necessarily always mean cancer.

"Lumps in the breasts are predominantly benign. They can also be things like cysts in the breast which don't turn into cancer," he said.

A recent study shows that out of 605 women under the age of 40, only 5% of lumps were found to be malignant, but he says every lump should be evaluated.

"Breast cancer is a very survivable disease today and so it's very treatable," said Dr. Bleicher.

Dr. Bleicher says mortality rates have improved over the past decades due to improvements in surgery and better medicine.

"We try to find these cancers when they're very, very small even before your clinician can feel it. And hopefully even before you can feel it," added Dr. Meghan Boros, Breast Cancer Radiologist.

So early detection and prevention are key and that is done with annual mammograms and self examinations.

"We also generally recommend that women extend that up into the armpit area so that they can also feel for lumps in that area," said Dr. Bleicher.

Tiffany is now a 10-year cancer survivor and says she appreciates life more. She even wrote a children's book about her cancer journey.

"It's so hard not to panic but I can say that Fox Chase takes care of all of their patients like family, every single one, and to just take a deep breath and say you know what I'm in the best hands possible," she said.
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