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by Abigail Van Buren

To Be or Not to Be Gay Is Not a Matter of Prayer

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the letter from the woman whose mother had a painful lump in her breast.

I, too, had a painful lump in my breast for 2 1/2 years. The lump did not show up on my yearly mammograms, and the doctor said, "Don't worry about it -- it's just a 'mass' -- if it were cancer, it wouldn't hurt." Well, it became painful to the point where I couldn't even lie on my left side. My doctor then did a needle biopsy, which was not accurate because the needle happened to hit a spot where there were no cancer cells present.

Finally, I was in so much pain, I insisted that the lump be removed. It WAS cancer! I was very fortunate, as it was a slow-growing cancer, and I was able to have a lumpectomy followed by six weeks of radiation treatments, which saved my life.

Don't listen to doctors. Cancer DOES hurt. -- DAR BARBAR, COSTA MESA, CALIF.

DEAR DAR: Thank you for sharing your experience. However, I wouldn't advise women not to listen to doctors; I would say, "Get a second opinion, and a third opinion -- and if you are still in doubt, get a fourth opinion."

Some "masses" (or lumps) are painful -- some are not. The most competent doctors follow this rule: "If it doesn't belong there -- it should come out."