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Buddy Check: Women, do you have lumpy breasts? Don't let it stop you from a self-exam

A lot of women have fibrocystic breasts, which are lots of lumps and bumps. But, nurse Dawn Dugger says don't let that stop you from doing your self-exam.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dawn Dugger says she has fibrocystic breasts, and yet she was so sharp doing her self exam that she found her own breast cancer.

"I have large breasts. It was an abnormal shape. I knew it was cancer. I was pretty sure of it," Dugger said with solid confidence.

You can see the white spot on her mammogram. Look in the center of her breast.

Credit: Dawn Dugger's mammogram showing cancer

Dugger has been a nurse in Jacksonville since 2009, always helping everyone else.

She's also a nursing professor at Concorde Career Institute. She follows Buddy Check and, in fact, says, "I actually teach it in my classes to check our breasts every month."

Credit: Dugger

Dugger was teaching on Buddy Check Day, the 12th of the month, and being an enthusiastic professor, she was using her arms to illustrate her points. Then she felt "a pull."

So after her virtual class, she got into the shower and did a self-exam.  That's when she felt the lump. "It had absolutely no pain," she says. 

That's typical of breast cancer. No pain. 

Dugger's lump felt like a hard walnut with uneven edges. 

But Dugger encourages women, that if you check every month, you'll learn the landscape of your own breasts.  It will be obvious to you when a lump is different than all the rest you're used to feeling.

Dugger's physician, Dr. Zheng Topp, hematology/oncology at Baptist MD Anderson, says the cancer was caught early. 

Credit: Dawn Dugger and Family

Such a relief to Dugger to stay alive for her family. 

Dr. Topp says women should not skip calling the doctor or getting mammograms during the pandemic.  "You don't want to go back and say, 'I wish I could have or would have,' because breast cancer is a very curable disease."

Dugger's Concorde Career Institute "family" threw her a big, pink surprise party to cheer her on through recovery.  Her good friend, Rosalind Lavant, inspired the get-together.  Lavant is a breast cancer survivor herself. In fact, she'll be featured on First Coast News on a Buddy Check day soon.

Dugger chose a double mastectomy.  She planned to wear a shirt her first day after surgery to say, "My boobs tried to kill me." She's a good spirit.

Credit: Dugger

Her message to all women: "How can we take care of everybody else if we don't take care of ourselves?"

So do that self-exam and get your mammogram!   

If you want a free Buddy Check kit to come to you in the mail, just call our Buddy Check partner, Baptist / MD Anderson at 904-202-CARE.

Credit: Buddy Check FCN

If Buddy Check has helped you in any way, First Coast News anchor Jeannie Blaylock would love to hear from you. Her email is jblaylock@firstcoastnews.com.