BreastScreen SA is sharing the stories of South Australian women personally affected by breast cancer to raise awareness of the importance of breast screening.
At 57 years of age, I had been a regular screener with BreastScreen SA (BSSA) for a number of years, having my two-yearly mammograms when I received my invitation letters in the mail.
In June 2014, I attended for my regular breast screen at the Elizabeth GP Plus Clinic. As I work at GP Plus Elizabeth, having a mammogram was as easy as walking down the corridor where the girls looked after me very well.
In July 2014, I received a letter from BSSA indicating that there may be an abnormality. The letter indicated that I should arrange to attend BSSA for further testing.
On Tuesday 15 July, I attended with my husband as support and spent the day in a lovely pink dressing gown with about 20 other ladies who had also been recalled for further testing. During the course of the day, as each woman was cleared of any breast issues, they would each individually give the thumbs up as they departed and wished those of us left all the best (we had a nice bit of camaraderie going having all spent the day together in this potentially life-changing situation).
I had another mammogram and a breast ultrasound, and was then seen by an absolutely lovely female BSSA doctor who performed a breast examination. At the time she asked if I had felt a ‘suspicious’ lump in my left breast during self-checks, but I had been unable to detect anything. She indicated that, as the lump was directly behind the nipple, it was very difficult to feel. Even the doctor had trouble finding it and explained that it felt like the tissue was slightly firmer than the right and that was all. She said that without the mammogram, she would not have picked it up. She then said I would need to stay for a core biopsy procedure where I was assisted by a lovely nurse.
That was Tuesday. On the Thursday, we were asked to return to BSSA for the biopsy results. All the staff that looked after me were great. I had the same nurse that I had during my appointment on Tuesday, and she took my husband and me into the waiting room and made me a cup of tea.
We then went in to see the doctor, who unfortunately delivered his message rather bluntly: “You have breast cancer, and even though it’s only 19mm, I would call it a stage 4 cancer”. I was then told I would need to see a breast surgeon for treatment. Again, the nurse was very empathetic and supportive, and luckily I’m pretty tough and optimistic (maybe because I’m a nurse!).
My husband and I just sat in the car and looked at each other for a while. Then we picked up the pieces and started organising my breast cancer journey. At my post-surgery check-up, my breast surgeon mentioned that I was very good in never putting off or delaying my mammograms as my cancer has been detected early and had not spread to my lymph nodes (my mammogram two years earlier was totally clear).
I certainly recommend BSSA to all my friends and family as my routine mammogram detected an otherwise undetectable lump and literally saved my life. I went on to have surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and am now on hormone therapy. In August this year (2018), I had my four year post surgery mammogram, which was all clear. I will be able to return to BSSA after my five year scan next August and plan to continue my yearly mammograms without delay.
Thanks to all the BSSA staff that looked after me and I hope you are not offended if I say I don’t wish to see any of you again!