I learned the importance of self breast exams when I was in college

By Kenya Whitfield
NABJ Black News & Views

I was a 20-year-old college student going to the obstetrician/gynecologist (OBGYN) for the first time for an annual check up.  I found myself  lying on the table and having a random conversation with the nurse practitioner as she began  examining my breast.

 She started first with my right breast and everything was normal. As she began  examining my left breast she asked me if I performed home self examinations. “No,” I said. She started going into detail on how to perform a self examination and as she was examining my left breast she felt something.

She asked me if I’m a big drinker of brown cola and my response was “No.” She told me to place my fingers on my left breast and I felt a hardness that I didn’t know existed. The lump was about the size of half a dollar.

Now, I’m nervous, scared and thinking the absolute worst. The nurse practitioner can see the fear on my face and explained the next steps to me and said that the lump could be benign but an X-ray and surgery to remove would be needed to confirm.

When I left the doctor’s office, I immediately called my mom on the phone in tears. She calmed me down and assured me that we will get through this together. Over the course of the next week, I went to the radiology clinic for my X-ray exam. They confirmed the lump and the size of it. 

The date for my surgery was scheduled and  my mind was racing. I thought the worst. What if I have cancer? How will I finish college? What does my future hold? 

The day of my surgery arrived and my mom and dad were there encouraging me and telling me everything would be fine. Would it? What if they said the lump isn’t benign and I have cancer?  My mind was still racing even as the IV was placed in my arm. My mom told me everything would be fine and I didn’t have anything to worry about.  

Once the surgery was complete, the lump was sent for testing.

 And great news a few days later! The lump was benign and I didn’t have cancer. I cried tears of joy because I knew that it could have gone in another direction. I am forever thankful to the nurse practitioner who informed me on the importance of at home self examinations. 

Now, 20 years later I have a small scar on my left breast as a constant reminder of the importance of performing random self-breast examinations. Every time I look at my scar, it’s a reminder to constantly educate my daughter on how important it is to perform these routine exams.

And here’s how to perform your own breast self exam.

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