I had fibrocystic breasts – Zakithi Makhaye

Young Zakithi Makhaye has had two benign breast lumps removed; one at the age of 16 and more recently when she was 24. She shares her story with us.


Zakithi Makhaye (25) lives in Soweto, Gauteng. 

Tell us about the first benign breast lump 

Firstly, I had extremely large breasts (32DD). At school, health programmes were initiated and we were taught how to maintain body health and do self-breast examinations. The self-check became a norm in my life; one day I discovered a ‘lumpy feeling’ in my left breast.I consulted with a doctor, went for a biopsy and the asymmetry of my breasts was tested. My left breast was much larger than the right one and my left areola was also bigger than the right one. The doctor said I had fibrocystic breasts (a condition in which breast tissue feels lumpy).  

Why was the lump removed even though it wasn’t malignant? 

The lump was accompanied by pain, consistent growth and discoloration. I was advised it would get worse and my breast would get larger. So, I underwent a lumpectomy. Unfortunately, I had to miss two months of school but my principal brought school work to my house, and was like a second mother.

Tell us about the second benign lump removal

I was 24 and experienced the same symptoms as before but by this time I couldn’t sleep without a bra, I needed support. Plus, I suffered with many back issues and my breasts were always sore.

This time I went to Helen Joseph Hospital Breast Care Clinic. I had scans, then a biopsy. After it was diagnosed as fibrocystic breasts again, I underwent a T-based stitch operation and chose to have a reduction on both breasts. I am now  a size 32B and have no pain. And, after 10 years of needing to sleep with a bra, I finally don’t have to.

Were you scared it was breast cancer?

Very much so, my mom and I were ecstatic when we heard it was another benign lump. Just the thought of going through chemotherapy makes me anxious…all those treatment processes would have likely left me exhausted. I wouldn’t have had a normal schedule. I am so glad that I can continue with work and achieve my goals. 

Prof Carol-Ann Benn’s explanation:

What is fibrocystic breast disease?

I hear the comment so often, “I have fibroadenosis; or fibrocystic breast disease.” Actually, you have: either a breast mass; breast pain or nipple discharge.

The term fibrocystic breast disease is just what your breast tissue is doing. Our breasts are like meadows; things grow and change. A better analogy – your breasts are like the African bushveld; numerous things lives there and most animals are not aggressive predators.

If we biopsied every women’s breast that walked into a shopping centre, we would get fibroadenosis or fibrocystic change on the core biopsy in over 50% of the women.

So, rather ask the questions:
1. What symptom do I have?

• Breast pain

• Breast mass

• Nipple discharge

2. What did the doctor find on examination; and what investigations (not operations) should I go for?

The radiologist sees (binocular  vision – the ultrasound) and is the game ranger – the interpreter of the mammogram; and the MRI is the bush helicopter, flying from the top with a different view of the bush (your breasts).

Once a diagnosis is made, then the discussion of what surgical treatment is necessary for whatever is found will start.

Most non-cancerous breast problems (benign) do not need surgery. All breast cancers should be discussed in detail in a multi-disciplinary environment before starting any treatment.

Laurelle Williams is the editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Write to the editor@buddiesforlife.co.za

MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams

Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. editor@buddiesforlife.co.za


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