How could I have a tumor large enough to make one breast larger than the other and not have known it sooner? That's what everyone wants to know, myself included. I asked Dr. Lang this and she said something about some tumors having pretty indistinct borders and being hard to feel.
I've honestly never been very good about going to the doctor for regular physicals. I've always been active and healthy and except for a rare cold never been sick. I did have a mammogram done five years ago. Then, this past spring after a girlfriend recommended her doctor, I did go for a physical. The doctor did a breast exam and didn't feel anything unusual. She did order a routine mammogram. Her office was going to schedule it, but then called because they wanted me to find out where I could go that was covered by my insurance. Well, I was busy with the end of the school year, then getting ready to go to Alaska with my family for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary, going to Alaska, starting the new school year, and I just never got back to them. When I did have it done in September, it was read as negative, just dense breast tissue. No change from the one done five years ago. I did do fairly regular self breast exams. I am naturally pretty small breasted and thought it would be very easy to feel if I had anything unusual going on.
I realize that my breast must have gradually gotten larger over time, but to me it honestly seemed to happen overnight. I get dressed every day in front of the mirror in my closet. It was only right before my period started, when I'm usually a little swollen and tender, that I noticed the difference. I'd worn bikini tops to the hot tub on the cruise during the summer and had to wear one of those strapless adhesive bras with my gown for the formal night and did not notice any difference.
The first ultrasound and MRI did not identify any tumor. They didn't even say anything about abnormal breast tissue. Just dense tissue, swelling, and skin thickening.
With the diagnosis of IBC I was able to tell myself that the onset is so sudden there was nothing I could have done. I gave myself credit for being so quick to get to the doctors. Now, I'm left with a lot of questions, what ifs, and a sense of responsibility that I should have been better about going to the doctor regularly. Maybe if I had, the cancer would not be advanced. I just don't know.