What to Do When You Feel a Lump: St. Luke’s New Comprehensive Breast Program

This post was sponsored by St. Lukes and written by Jennifer Witt, MD.

What to Do When You Feel a Lump: St. Luke’s New Comprehensive Breast Program | Duluth Moms Blog

It was about 11:30 at night when my phone woke me up. Disoriented, I tried to remember if I was on call – or maybe it was the baby monitor beeping? Finally, it registered that my sister who lives out of state was calling me. I got a little nervous. A phone call from your sister at 11:30 at night is never a good thing. 

Hitting Close to Home

I answered and she was just sobbing. “I think I have breast cancer,” was all I could get out of her. Once I heard her say that, I was fully awake. I have conversations like this every day with my patients. It’s what I know, and I’m passionate about helping them. Still after she told me, I remember thinking: surely my sister is not saying these words. 

She explained that she found a lump in her breast two weeks prior. She had her period, so she waited to see if the lump went away. It hadn’t. She went on to tell me she felt it every day with worry, thinking about our great aunt who had breast cancer, and convincing herself that now she had it too. 

As we continued to talk, there was nothing else about what she described that concerned me. She didn’t have any nipple discharge, there was no dimpling or other skin changes where the lump was, and she didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary under her arm. I did my best to reassure her. I told her to call her primary care doctor in the morning. I told her they’d probably order an ultrasound and we’d take it from there. I encouraged her to not to be afraid. But she was still terrified. 

There Has to Be a Better Way

The next morning, my first patient seeing me for a breast lump was almost the same age as my sister. I walked into the room and saw her shaking hands clenched around a crumpled Kleenex with tears in her eyes. I couldn’t help but think of my sister. 

I sat down, leaned in and pulled up her information so she could see that she was going to be okay. Her lump was just a cyst — a benign (noncancerous) area full of fluid. She told me that when she found it six weeks before, she started to worry and convinced herself it could only be bad news. She told me it had taken her a couple of weeks to get in to see her doctor, then a couple more to get imaging and a biopsy done, then a couple more to get to the appointment to see me. I thought about my sister again, praying it wouldn’t be that long for her. And then I decided that something had to be done about this. 

Treating breast concerns can be challenging. It takes a whole team of doctors, physician assistants, nurses, radiology technicians and pathology technicians to get a diagnosis, and that kind of teamwork takes time to coordinate. But, I was convinced there had to be a way for us to do it better at St. Luke’s that would cut down on all the time women had to spend worrying. Patients shouldn’t have to wait six weeks to find out if they have breast cancer or not.  

St. Luke’s Comprehensive Breast Program

So, the team that diagnoses breast issues at St. Luke’s met to figure out how we could shorten the wait. The solution? We created St. Luke’s Comprehensive Breast Program.

This program helps women make an appointment quickly, shortens the timeframe from testing to results, and helps them navigate through the St. Luke’s health system. Our new program provides individualized, personal attention as women receive state-of-the-art care, and our comprehensive team is committed to helping patients every step of the way through their breast health journey.

One major part of this program is our St. Luke’s Comprehensive Breast Program Navigator. This registered nurse serves as a primary point of contact and helps women every step of the way, from feeling a lump (or whatever breast problem arises), to getting a diagnosis as quickly as possible. She continues to support women through treatment and beyond with any other need they may have.

What to Do When You Feel a Lump: St. Luke’s New Comprehensive Breast Program | Duluth Moms Blog
Jennifer Witt, MD

My sister had a biopsy and found out that her lump was a fibroadenoma, which is non-cancerous. She decided not to have it removed, but to monitor it with regular ultrasounds instead. She’s feeling better, but still tears up sometimes when she thinks about all the anxiety it caused her. I’m so proud of the team we’ve created at St. Luke’s to offer a better experience for other patients like her. 

So, if you feel a lump – don’t worry! There are many non-cancerous things it can be. Let your doctor know as soon as possible. For more information about St. Luke’s Comprehensive Breast Program, contact St. Luke’s Comprehensive Breast Program Navigator Amanda Buck, RN, at 218.249.2662. Remember: one in three women will feel a lump at some point in their life. You’re not alone, and St. Luke’s is here to help!