what the hell is this?
July 20, 2022 9:32 AM   Subscribe

And do I need to go to a doctor? Don't read if boob-talk isn't your thing.

So, I was doing my usual monthly breast self-exam last night in the shower and I discovered this odd thing under my left breast - it feels literally like there is a hole under there. Like, a large enough one that it is impossible not to notice. I consulted Dr Google which I know was not a smart idea and now I'm freaking out. It says it could be mastitis, which makes no sense as I have no other symptoms and I am not currently breastfeeding not have I ever breastfed not will I ever breastfeed because I am childfree by choice.

It also could be a symptom of hidradenitis suppuritiva but that also makes no sense as I have no other symptoms of that whatsoever. 15 years ago I did have an abscess under my left breast that needed an I&D, but it is not near where this hole is. The abscess was determined to be caused by a pimple that got irritated by my bra underwire and turned into a cyst that got inflamed. I used to have cystic acne at the time so not a surprising diagnosis and I have never had a repeat of this situation since then.

Honestly it feels like the hole is a giant open pore, but why? There is no discharge from the hole. I just looked in the mirror and it's literally just this random crater. Only on that side. My boyfriend looked at it this morning and shrugged, but he's not big on proactive doctor appointments much to my great frustration.

Dr Google of course suggested it might be a symptom of a certain type of breast cancer which is why I'm really freaking out.

I know Dr Google is not a real doctor. I also know YANMD. But is this a cause for concern? Do I need to go to urgent care?

If not, what the hell could this be?

I have a rack of doom - 40G bra size - in case that his relevant. This hole is located right where my underboob meets my ribcage, where the bottom of my bra hits.
posted by nayantara to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
Is it an open wound or a dent with closed skin over it? How big is it?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:36 AM on July 20, 2022

Response by poster: Dent with closed skin over it. I can feel it more while lying down and it's more visible while lying down. Not immediately noticeable standing up in front of the mirror. About the size of the tip of my pinky. Rest of breast looks normal.
posted by nayantara at 9:38 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gurl. Go to the doctor and get examined! It may be nothing to worry about. But a breast change of any kind deserves a doctor's perspective. Nobody here can know and the internet will only give you access to anecdotal stories that will either unecessarily scare you or lead you to an irresponsible self diagnosis.

You and your boobs are worth the doctor's time. Get looked at!
posted by pazazygeek at 9:42 AM on July 20, 2022 [55 favorites]

Best answer: First, so sorry, I know first-hand how notices changes to one's breasts can be really scary. Anytime you notice a significant change in your breast, it's best to speak to a medical professional. I'd call your primary care physician today, and describe your symptoms.
posted by coffeecat at 9:43 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Just go get it checked by a doctor
posted by knapah at 9:45 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you have the wherewithal and financial ability to have a doctor visit, it may be worth it just for the peace of mind. I am NOT suggesting that anything is wrong with you, mind you - it's more like, having someone else in a white coat with the title "Doctor" in front of their name telling you something tends to work better at talking you out of your paranoia than if you try to do it yourself.

From the sound of it, though, my hunch is that it's another case of a cyst that had been there all along and drained, and left that dent behind. I also had cystic acne here and there for years, and while it's not showing up on my face any more I am still prone to cysts in other places (I had a mammogram this year, and got called in for a second appointment for a sonogram because they saw a couple spots on the mammogram; but as soon as they had me on the sonogram table they immediately were like, "oh, yeah, okay, those all are just cysts, you're fine"). That's just my gut instinct, though, and seeing a doctor just for the peace of mind might be wise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:45 AM on July 20, 2022 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I know this is not your healthcare system, but the NHS website explicitly says to see your GP if you have any unusual changes in your breasts, including dimpled skin. (It also points out that there are plenty of non-terrifying possible causes for breast changes.)

I would go to a doctor for this if you can.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:50 AM on July 20, 2022

Best answer: It's likely the ghost of a cyst or some similar transient thing. This is not at all unusual, but the thing is you have to set a baseline before you can say for YOU it's unusual. Go get it documented so you know if it changes.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:51 AM on July 20, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Agreed with everyone that you should go get it checked out. "You and your boobs are worth the doctor's time." I don't know that I'd go to urgent care, but I might call my consulting nurse hotline (most insurance cards seem to have them) and follow their advice. Sometimes they can help you get in to see a doctor faster.
posted by purple_bird at 9:51 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Mastitis would hurt so I think you can rule that out but I would still go Planned Parenthood or if you'd rather, your GP/PCP or GYN on a non-urgent basis.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:09 AM on July 20, 2022

Best answer: You got a good close look at it with a mirror?

It doesn't fit the obvious profile for skin cancer - irregular shape, growth, odd colour, etc?

You've had abscesses under your bubbies before? Chances are really high that you just had another one and the sebum got out and it is no longer infected and is healing quietly on its own. It sounds exactly like what a healing subcutanous cyst looks like - a crater.

Treat the area the way you would if you had an active cyst and observe. Cleaning is important. You've maybe got bacteria that could make another one there. Mark it with a felt marker if you need to so that you will see if it is shrinking, or photograph it beside a ruler. Also note if it is getting redder or if it is sore at all.

See a nurse practitioner or a non urgent care clinic when convenient over the next few weeks, if it isn't giving you any problems and doesn't simply heal up. If it hurts or seems infected see them sooner. It will likely leave a discretely located scar.

IANAD, but it sounds exactly like the cyst craters I used to look after on the back of my sister's neck up until she went through her general military training and improved her posture. I'm not saying it couldn't possibly be something dreadful, I'm just saying it really fits the profile of something you've already had in the near area before.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify - there is no change in skin color where the hole/dent is, and it's as far as I can tell not irregular in shape. Just a little round dent the size of my pinkie. My boyfriend actually had to shine a flashlight on it this morning to even see it, and I can only see it in our bathroom which has tons of natural light and also overhead and mirror lighting.

However, point taken, I will go to the doctor, or at least see if there's a nurse's hotline I can call for advice.

It's been in the high 80s/low 90s for the past few weeks here in Upstate NY and I am extremely prone to under-boob sweat. I wash my bras once a week but perhaps I should up that in case I have some grody bacteria lingering on the underwire? My bras are super expensive (rack of doom) so I don't want to overwash and wear out the elastic or damage the underwire but if this is indeed a healing cyst that I was oblivious to I probably should increase my cleaning. I have three bras and never wear one two days in a row, I alternate. I maybe should get two more to get me through a full work week but again - expensive AF.

I cannot wear bras that don't have underwire. The rack is heavy and no underwire just doesn't work for me, I get terrible back pain. I am not open to breast reduction surgery as otherwise the rack doesn't cause me any pain.

At any rate - doctor time just to be safe, but the cyst theory does track since I've had an abscessed cyst on this side before, so the feeling of immediate impending doom is gone.

Thank you all!
posted by nayantara at 11:13 AM on July 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, I think if your boyfriend had to shine a flashlight on it to even see the thing, that's a good sign.

But I totally feel you on being freaked out; we women get so much "omigod go see your doctor if your boobs do something weird" messaging that it's hard not to get a little nervous. That's actually more so the reason why I'm encouraging you to talk to your own doctor about this - all that advice is for "generic women", and your doctor is going to help you figure out how to fine tune that advice just for you.

That's what my own doctor did, after the third time in a row I'd gone in saying "I felt a lump during a BSE" and they checked me out and they found it was just a cyst. After the third "it's just a cyst" false-alarm, my doctor sat me down and said "I think in your case, instead of calling me when you feel a lump, you should wait a month and see if it goes away on its own first. And if it doesn't, then call me. Because I think we've established that you just get cysts and 99% of the time that's all it's gonna be." And sure enough, over the years since - whenever I've felt a lump, I just make a note to keep an eye on that over the course of the next month, and invariably whatever lump I've felt has gone away within a week anyway. But - it took my doctor and me as a team to figure out that that was the case for me, because we were focused on my specific body instead of "women's bodies in general".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:24 AM on July 20, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I will jump on the "see the doctor train" for peace of mind, but I had a cyst removed from my outer underboob and 20-some odd years later, there's still a little "pocket" in the same spot that will sometimes emit some sebaceous crap. My doctor looked at it and said "sometimes bodies are weird..."
posted by sarajane at 12:34 PM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: FWIW, breast self-exams are no longer recommended as a cancer screening measure because they do not reduce the risk of death from breast cancer and lead to excess anxiety and medical procedures (biopsies, surgeries). Some groups do advocate for them "for self-awareness," but just not doing them is fine.
posted by momus_window at 2:04 PM on July 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Huh, I did not know that momus_window. Thanks for passing that along!
posted by nayantara at 2:56 PM on July 20, 2022

Best answer: You might get some relief from bra liners (daintier style, not messing around style), which are much easier to wash than bras themselves.

You can also use salicylic acid body wash if you are prone to various pore-related upsets under there.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:18 PM on July 20, 2022

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