Finding a lump -- again
By Roger Wilson, Honorary President of SPAGN
I found a strange lump a few weeks ago. My mind went racing.
I have found lumps before, and they have proved to be malignant -- not a good starting place.
It’s been over ten years since my last recurrence of sarcoma. Some people might think of me as cured, but I am acutely aware that cannot be certain. My oncologist is cautious.
Sadly, many sarcomas are aggressive and progress rapidly. Mine has proved to be more indolent: I have had a seven-year period of remission and another of three years, although I have also had one long period of recurrence activity which ended with lung metastases, fortunately spotted early and surgically excised. This lump was in an unusual place, not where we would expect a sarcoma recurrence to appear.
That does not mean it cannot happen, just that it is less likely.
I have been here before, and it’s not a nice place to be.
When it happened before, it was much more likely to be a recurrence so my mind went down the treatment route – could it be excised, what would surgery involve, how would it affect me (for my third recurrence I had an amputation), would I need radiotherapy (again)? These were all unanswerable questions.
This time a recurrence is less likely, but the questions are still there.
So my oncologist takes a look. No doom-laden voice -- he is up-beat, optimistic: “It looks and feels like a cyst,” he says, “but let’s make sure.”
Ultra-sound scan is done by an experienced radiologist (who has been involved in my treatment before): “It looks like a cyst, probably lymphatic in origin, but let’s make sure.”
He takes a biopsy, two core-needle samples.
I wait and worry.
A week later, there’s a result from the pathologist. The information is conveyed by my oncologist in a phone call. “I knew you would want to hear: It’s a benign cyst.”
How worried was I, exactly?
That’s a bit like asking “How long is a piece of string?” When things are uncertain, any degree of worry affects you. You think about the cause of concern, you project past experience, you hear imagined conversations with doctors, your imagination starts to work overtime. I did not get to that point, this time, but what if something similar arises again…
It’s a lesson learned. It is one we advocates preach the whole time and one which must not be ignored: Got a lump? Check it out.
Only about 1 in every 300 lumps seen by doctors is a major concern, and those of concern are not necessarily malignant. But just because we have been through that challenge before does not make us immune.
Check it out!
Bio: Roger Wilson, the Honorary President of SPAGN, is currently working as a patient on two sarcoma clinical studies, on the steering group of two scientific developments and supporting two PhD research students.