I think I'm in real trouble here

Hi, I’m new.
I’d been having strange, nagging pain in my left shoulder for a few months, so I went to my GP a few weeks ago. The pain is a dull ache, not related to activity, present at rest. I told GP I was worried about cancer and she referred me for a bunch of routine bloods - FBC, U+E, LFTs, bone profile, etc.
I missed the appointment for these tests, my dog was throwing up blood that day (she’s a healthy 5 year old) so I didn’t go - was more worried about the dog.
Anyway, in the meantime my mum told me on 5th Jan that she has breast cancer. She is 73, vegetarian non-smoker, non-drinker incredibly fit and well. No family history. She has since had lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy which was clear. It’s ER-postive and she has a good prognosis.
Anyway I did what you do when you hear about someone having breast cancer - self examined. My breasts are very lumpy and always have been. I’m pretty sure I have fibrocystic breast disease and they are often painful and lumpier at different times in my cycle. I’ve always been convinced this would hide a malignant lump. I couldn’t palpate any concerning new breast lumps but was horrified to find a cluster of enlarged LNs in my left axilla and another one down the side of my chest wall, kind of maybe just in the breast tissue or just lateral to it. The two biggest axillary LNs are I think probably 1.5cm or so, there are one or two smaller ones palpable too. I can think of no infective cause.
I haven’t been back to GP yet. I am absolutely terrified. I work in healthcare and I’m fearing the worst.
I smoked for twenty years but stopped more than a year ago. I have drunk a lot of wine in my life and I have had stress off the scale - various causes - over the last four or five years. I’m 42 with two children.
It doesn’t look good, does it? I feel like I don’t want to know :frowning:

Hi Izzysmum
Sending you lots of love. You don’t need me to tell you what you need to do - get to the GP.
Pauline xx

As Lilac says, huge hugs, then get on the phone to your GP today, and insist on an urgent appointment… tell them you have found enlarged nodes, say the word ‘breast’ and don’t be fobbed off. OK, so you missed the blood tests, but that was then, this is now.

I am around your age, and your Mum is roughly the age of mine, and apart from the veggie bit, like her was super healthy but still got breast cancer at age 47… it happens. I spent ages guilt tripping myself for not finding the (huge) tumour sooner but came to accept that sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. All of which is to say, your past smoking and love of a glass of wine may have some relevance on whatever you are now finding, but you can’t alter them, so don’t add to the stress by guilt-tripping.

One heatlhcare professional I know who was diagnosed with breast cancer said she knew “too much and not enough” - the risk of self-diagnosing, the risk of knowledge induced fear etc, they are all there, but at the end of the day, only an expert can confirm or exclude cause of your enlarged lymph nodes.

Hopefully there will be a simply explanation, but if not you will be offered excellent treatment and find amazing support here.

Why noy try calling the helpline when it opens this morning? They are able to help in many ways.

Hi Izzysmum, welcome to the BCC forums

I am sorry to read that you have this worry, in addition to the support you have here as Revcat says, our helpliners are on hand to offer you lots of support and information on 0808 800 6000, lines are open 9-5 weekdays and 10-2 so please feel free to call.

You may find the BCC ‘Worried’ information page useful too, you can read this here:


Take care


Hi Izzysmum,
Your post has really touched me and reminded me of the anxiety i felt waiting for results of my biopsy to see if my cancer had spread. I just wanted to say good luck with contacting the doctors, I’m sure you will feel better once you know either way, it could be anything and if it isn’t as simple as that then you will know what your dealing with and your mind will turn into fight mode- information is power - you can’t deal with something you don’t know about! Will be thinking of you!
Sarah x

If it is any consolation I don’t think smoking is a risk factor for breast cancer (although of course it is a risk factor for lots of other things). Unfortunately alcohol is, but that is true for most of us.
As everyone else says, get yourself to the GP as soon as possible. If it is bad news you need to know and get on with treatment, if it is good news then you can stop worrying.

It seems the causes of breast cancer are unclear and not related to life style choices other than alcohol. It isn’t a smoking related disease and affects women at random - super fit athletes to couch potatoes. Or so my breast nurse told me, backed up by what I have read. So no need to worry what you may have done to your body in the past, and in my case the present!

As the others have said, get to the GP as soon as possible and get tests and an expert diagnosis. I wish you, and your mum, all the luck in the world.


Thanks everyone for your replies.
I know smoking isn’t a risk factor, it just adds to my feeling that generally I haven’t looked after my health as well as I should.
So, I realised I have to stop burying my head in the sand and I rang the GP first thing and got an appointment this morning.
She’s referred me for triple assessment on the two week pathway.
When she examined me she said she could feel the LN on the chest wall, but not the axillary ones. I wasn’t surprised by this as they are deep and not easy to palpate. I know what they are though because I have felt plenty in patients. She also agreed that I have very dense, naturally lumpy breasts. When she examined the right one, she suddenly said ‘well I can definitely feel something there’, though the axillary LNs are on the left. I’ve always worried I wouldn’t feel a craggy lump because of the general texture of my breasts is lumpy in a ‘craggy’ way if that makes sense.
I know that fibrocystic breast tissue and cyclical breast pain can be more of a problem in peri-menopausal women and I have felt that I may be peri-menopausal for a year or so because I have noticed my cycles shortening and get clotty periods (sorry if TMI). I know I am only 42 but my mum had her menopause at 46 (another reason why it was a shock when she was diagnosed, she also had five pregnancies that went to full term and breast fed after four of them), plus a late menarche. I also have two half-sisters I found out about three years ago (twins mum had to have adopted as a young woman) and they both had their menopause at 46 as well, so I know I’m on course for an early one.
I think I have been too quick to reassure myself because of this and the texture has been a real obstacle to being able to examine my breasts in a meaningful way. Of course I am too young for routine screening. I asked the GP for an honest opinion and she said she was ‘unable to offer any reassurance’ and felt I should be assessed asap. This might sound harsh on her part, but there is no point bull*******g me as I am a fourth year medical student so am well aware myself that things don’t look great. I’ve read a lot of the threads on here and they sound like, and often turn out to be fibroadenomas but I don’t think this looks like that.
I’m annoyed with myself as I have ignored symptoms that in retrospect might have been worrying but like a lot of medics/doctors I have a tendency both to catastrophise about my health while at the same time avoiding going to the doctor. I know this sounds stupid but I think it’s common!
I have asked to be referred to UCH because I am at UCL medical school and it is the hospital where I am doing most of my training. I had a breast surgery rotation last year and went to triple assessment clinics. I know it’s very efficient and I have confidence in the hospital. I’m even thinking I might go and speak to one of the doctors and see if I can be seen earlier. They might see me at the end of a clinic as a favour sometime as I am here most days anyway.
I’m terrified. I have had a very difficult few years. 2013 was meant to be a new start for me. Last year was absolute hell, I split with my husband after years of unhappiness in an awful marriage. We had two properties to sell and two to buy, none of these transactions was straightforward and the stress, along with the annual hideous exams was unbelievable. I’ve spent the last six years studying (had to do science A levels first as I had an arts degree). The thought that all this effort might go to waste when I am due to finally qualify next year is unbearable and I can’t even think about not seeing my children grow up.
I feel doomed and am beating myself up about ignoring things that may have been early warning signs though I realise it’s also easy to look back and see things as having been ominous.
Ironically today I am meeting for lunch a breast cancer patient who I followed for a project last year. She presented with Stage IV and liver mets at 43 and had a horrible time on her course of neo-adjuvant doxetaxel and Herceptin only to find not long after surgery that she had extensive brain mets. She has been having WBRT but is not doing well.
Thanks people for your support; I will update when I know anything. In the meantime please keep posting on my thread, it’s helpful to hear from people who have suffered this awful anxiety. I feel very isolated.
Thank you to anyone who has had the patience to read this long post.

Hi Izzysmum

Please don’t beat yourself up. Just because you work in healthcare doesn’t mean you are any different to the rest of us. Scared, not sure what to do for the best, especially with all you have had to put up with. But now we know, and you know we know, let that be a motivation for you to do it now. Come back here often, and let us know how you get on. Good luck, and good luck to you lovely mum too.
Hugs pg xx

Wishing you all the best. You are in that horrible phase of not knowing what you’re facing. Lots of people here who have been right where you are so I hope you get support and reassurance from that.

Hi Izzysmum - sorry to hear of your worries. I’m sure you already know this but just to reaffirm and reassure you, even if it is cancer and it’s spread to your lymph nodes it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily spread anywhere else, it just shows that your lymph nodes are doing their job. Yes, you have had a difficult time with everything that’s been going on in your life. How lovely that you’re working towards a career helping people like us.

Fingers crossed that it’s a good result and you can just continue with your studies and become a marvellous doctor, like the ones who have looked after me.
Best wishes X

Flori your post made me cry.
I’ve been on the phone to my mum this evening, very teary. The children are with their dad and the loneliness is awful. I haven’t got used to my new life yet.
More positively, I met my friend with breast cancer for lunch and it was lovely to see her. It was the first time I’d seen her since July and she looked amazingly well. She’s had a really rough time but is on oral chemotherapy now and feeling so much better. She is making plans for the summer and it’s great to see that things are going so well for her. I wasn’t sure what to expect as we mainly stay in touch by text and a couple of months ago she was feeling terrible and sounded so worried. But today she looked just the same as she did last summer and you would never know that she was unwell, so that has cheered me up a lot because I like her so much.

I rang the GP this afternoon because I thought I should get a copy of my referral letter and maybe pitch up at the clinic tomorrow and see if I can expedite things at all. The receptionist told me that the GP had faxed it over to the hospital at lunchtime so they have it already.
This seems very quick; I feel a bit startled by this and I’m trying to tell myself that she is just being efficient. Whatever, it’s good that she did it. I just want to get this over with.
I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but I’m actually less worried about the LNs and more about the persistent, inexplicable shoulder pain that I have had for three or four months. It is definitely worse and harder to ignore than it was and I am conscious of it all the time when I am sitting still.

So I have an appointment on the 11th. It could be worse, that will be 12 days since I went to the GP. But it is going to be a long wait :frowning:

Excellent news!! One thing about the NHS - they do not mess about with breast cancer referrals. Everything I have experienced has been speedy, efficient, and caring.

I’m so scared. Axillary LNs is worse than a breast lump isn’t it? One of them is the size of a marble. They are painless as well.

Glad to hear you’ve got a referral appointment. When you’re so worried it feels like a long wait as it’s difficult to think of anything else. I hope you can manage to do a few nice things to distract yourself but I expect you’re very busy with your studies, which must make it even more difficult.

We’ll be thinking of you. Let us know how you get on.