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August 22, 1990

An Elemental Education

Author Affiliations

El Paso, Tex

El Paso, Tex

JAMA. 1990;264(8):1051. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450080141054

I took birth control pills for 2 1/2 years, starting when I was about 20. Within months after stopping, I began having lumps in my breasts. I was in college then; I remember the doctor at the college infirmary telling me that some women just have breasts like beanbags, and I happened to be one of them. He actually showed me a little beanbag that he tossed from hand to hand and then let me hold, maybe to give me something to relate to.

It is a dozen years later. I am on my back in an examination room, trying to memorize the ceiling while the surgeon goes in search of a pathologist. The lump I have found in my breast this time is different from the others, different even from the cysts he has aspirated in the past. It is solid, so he decides to do a needle biopsy