February 11, 2022
Hannah had symptoms of breast cancer but stopped asking for imaging because she was continuously dismissed.
I was 27 years old, studying abroad in Hong Kong, and living on campus. My alma mater was back home in the Netherlands. I felt a lump and ignored it at first, until I felt it again three months later. The campus doctor referred me to a specialist and after an echography and biopsy, they confirmed it was benign. She did however advise me to get regular checkups as soon as I got home and an MRI because I have dense breasts and malignancies could therefore be missed.
Back home, the radiologist seemed annoyed why I got referred to him by my GP. He told me benign tumors and abnormalities are common with young women and there is nothing to worry about. He advised against an MRI as it was not protocol in the Netherlands. My breast increasingly kept hurting me over the years, and I could feel it changing. The pain was so unbearable at times that I would lie awake crying.
I kept going back to my GP. My GP took me seriously; unfortunately, the hospital never did. Annoyed by why I kept coming, I felt I was being a pain in the ass patient who was wasting everybody’s time. Fast forward almost a year and half. For this interval, I didn’t get checked. I was too scared to ask for another checkup; I started to believe that it’s just me. I took a shower and noticed a dent in my breast, right next to my nipple. By this time, I was involved in breast cancer screening risk communication research, so I knew I fit the high-risk profile, but still feeling guilted by the specialist, I was hesitant to get checked out. I decided that because I moved to a different city I would try again, maybe they’ll be easier on me here.
Within two weeks, we got the results: two masses -DCIS and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. After chemotherapy and a mastectomy, they found out I have a micrometastasis located in my sentinel node.