What Should I do When My Doctor Says to Watch and Wait with a Lump in My Breast?
When your doctor advises you to “watch and wait” with a lump in your breast, it means they want to monitor the lump over a period of time to see if it changes in size or other characteristics before making any decisions about further testing or treatment. This approach is often taken when the lump appears to be benign (non-cancerous) based on initial evaluations, such as physical examination or imaging studies.
In my nearly thirty years of working with cancer patients I have known a disturbing number of women who were told to “watch and wait” only to later find out they had stage III or IV breast cancer. I myself have had 17 breast biopsies to remove lumps that did not belong in my body!
My mom has had breast cancer three times, currently fighting stage IV, and I have a 40% breast cancer risk based on my own family history.
The bottom line is, in my personal and professional opinion, if it doesn’t belong there get it out. While I know that is not an option for everyone, and not everyone is as open to surgery as I am, I stand firm in my conviction.
Andrea Leonard, 39 year cancer survivor
Here are some steps to consider:
Seek Clarification: First and foremost, ask your doctor to explain in detail why they recommend a watch-and-wait approach. Understanding their reasoning and the characteristics of the lump is important for your peace of mind.
Discuss a Follow-up Plan: Work with your doctor to establish a clear follow-up plan. This plan should include a schedule for regular check-ups or imaging studies to monitor any changes in the lump. Typically, you may be asked to return for follow-up appointments every few months.
Maintain Good Health: Continue to take care of your overall health. Eat a balanced diet, engage in regular exercise, and avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption. A healthy lifestyle can support your immune system and overall well-being.
Self-Examination: Learn how to perform breast self-examinations. While not a substitute for professional medical evaluations, regular self-exams can help you become familiar with the normal texture and appearance of your breasts, making it easier to detect any changes.
Keep Records: Maintain a record of any changes you notice in the lump or your breast, as well as any symptoms like pain, tenderness, or nipple discharge. This information can be valuable for your healthcare provider.
Stay Informed: Stay informed about breast health and breast cancer risk factors. Knowing what to look for and understanding your own risk can help you make informed decisions about your health.
Seek a Second Opinion: If you are uncomfortable with the watch-and-wait approach, or if you have concerns about your diagnosis, consider seeking a second opinion from another healthcare professional. It’s important to feel confident in your treatment plan.
Emotional Support: Dealing with the uncertainty of a breast lump can be emotionally challenging. Seek support from friends, family, or a support group to help you cope with anxiety and stress during this time.
Stay Committed to Follow-up: Consistently attending your follow-up appointments is crucial. Even if the lump does not appear to be cancerous, it’s essential to monitor it to ensure any changes are promptly addressed.
Remember that every case is unique, and your healthcare provider’s recommendation is based on their assessment of your specific situation. Following their advice and maintaining open communication with them is vital for your breast health. If the lump changes or you experience any concerning symptoms during the watch-and-wait period, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor for further evaluation.