Carol Bailey was excitedly preparing for a romantic holiday with her boyfriend when she suddenly discovered, to her horror, a series of small, but growing, lumps which appeared in her armpits over the space of a few days.
Convinced she had a fast-spreading form of breast cancer, she rushed to her GP. The lumps were removed and taken away for laboratory analysis. Although the doctor had assured her that cancer tumours could not appear that fast, Carol was not convinced. She spent the whole of her two-week break oblivious to the sunshine and scenery around the couple's holiday cottage on the Cornish coast. 'I was just desperate to get home and get the results of the tests,' she said. 'I couldn't really think about anything else. I was absolutely terrified that I had cancer and was going to die.'
Thankfully, she did not have breast cancer, but she was suffering from something that was in some ways almost as sinister.
Although 45,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, many hundreds of thousands more, like Carol, go through the agony of investigation of lumps in the breast and underarm which turn out not to be cancerous at all. The cause and origin of these lumps or cysts is not understood and there are no official records of the number of women affected, so it is impossible to tell if the problem is getting worse.