Growing up, Melody Kyotuhaire was healthy, playful and always inquisitive. However, in 2013 while she was in Primary Four at Nyakatsiro Primary School in Mitooma District, she started suffering from severe backache.
“I would feel a lot of pain which would refuse to subside even after taking medication,” she says, adding that when it persisted, she was taken by her mother to a nearby health facility for a checkup. She received injections and was given drugs to help her cope with the discomfort. Kyotuhaire says the treatment worked for a while because the pain eventually subsided and she was able to continue with her studies.
In 2017, Kyotuhaire enrolled at Mahungye Secondary School in Bitereko Sub-county, Mitooma District and this is the time she started developing breasts. She says at first they were painless but in November 2018, she started feeling pain in both breasts.
They hurt so much that her mother took her to Comboni Hospital in Kyamuhunga, Bushenyi District. After thorough checkup, she was given medication including antibiotics.
“I took the drugs as told and hoped that the pain would reduce,” she says, adding, “It however continued.” In addition to the pain, the breasts began growing uncontrollably.
“When I started secondary school, I would only wear a camisole with my uniform but within a few weeks, I noticed that my breasts had almost doubled in size hence the need for a bra,’ she says.
Her mother also noticed the speed at which her daughter’s breasts were growing and because she was still in a lot of pain, they decided to seek medical help.
The hospital visits
One of the health facilities Kyotuhaire visited was Kampala International University Teaching Hospital in Ishaka, Bushenyi District.
At the hospital, a scan was carried out but the results showed there was nothing wrong with her breasts. Her mother opted to take her to other health facilities for a second opinion.
They visited Ishaka Adventist Hospital in Bushenyi District and after a number of tests, doctors said her prolactin hormones were too high, the reason her breasts were growing at a fast rate.
Prolactin hormones are produced by the pituitary gland and cause breasts to develop as well as initiate milk production after a baby is born.
According to medlineplus, an online portal, if prolactin levels are higher than normal, it often means there is a type of tumor of the pituitary gland, known as a prolactinoma. This tumor makes the gland produce too much prolactin.
Excess prolactin can cause the production of breast milk in men and in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. Around December 2018, Kyotuhaire was given medication to try and avert the problem. “However, even after receiving treatment, the breasts continued growing and the pain did not subside,” she says.
In February 2019, Kyotuhaire’s mother took her to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital where another thorough examination was done on both breasts. One of these included a Computerised Tomography (CT) scan which would be able to show inside Kyotuhaire’s breasts.
“The doctors used a needle to prick both breasts and obtain a fluid that was later tested,” Kyotuhaire says.
This process termed as a biopsy is when a sample of tissue is taken from a particluar body part so as to have it closely examined. The biopsy was important because Kyotuhaire had also began complaining of having stone-like substances inside her breasts. When the results returned, the family was notified that these “substances” were non-cancerous. She was then given more medication to help tackle the growth of the breasts and the pain. Despite the treatment, there was no change.
The search for more answers
In July 2019, Kyotuhaire was taken to Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala. A specialist from the hospital’s cancer institute advised that she first goes to LMK, a modern laboratory in the city centre which provides diagnosis for prevalent human diseases.
Tests were conducted and the results later showed that Kyotuhaire’s prolactin hormones were still very high. The results further showed that although the breast tissue was normal, they were a little complicated in structure.
Kyotuhaire was then taken to Platinum Hospital in Kampala where more tests were conducted. Here, a specialist said she needed surgery to reduce the size of her breasts. Trouble is, her family cannot raise the money needed for the surgey. Today, they continue to search for answers and solicit funds to cater for the pending breast reduction surgery expenses.
Since her breasts started growing uncontrollably, Kyotuhaire says her life has been a nightmare. For instance, she has been a subject of jokes at school. “Some students say cruel things including that I am pregnant. Others have said I aborted which is not true,” she says.
The backbiting and bullying have sometimes forced Kyotuhaire to isolate herself from other students. On other occasions, she wears a sweater (even on hot days) as a way of trying to hide her breasts from preying eyes.
Then, there is the severe pain she is grappling with as well as the discomfort. Buying bras is also proving costly since she has to buy new ones every time her breasts grow bigger. She hopes that one day she can have the surgery so that her life goes back to normal.
Dr Alex Kakoraki of Murchison Bay Hospital in Luzira says…
“The best specialists to handle such cases are endocrinologists. These are specialists trained in diagnosing and treating disorders of glands and organs that make hormones. Mulago hospital has several of these specialists. The same hospital has an adolescent and sexual reproduction section that would be instrumental in helping such a patient. Speaking to a specialist is much better than going from one hospital to another. Better yet, he would come up with a conclusive accurate medical report. Otherwise, at the age of 15, girls are undergoing all sorts of body changes, and, this is why it is important to see a specialist. The breasts’ abnormality could be as result of tumours, cancer, genetics and uncontrollable body hormones, among other endocrine problems.”