Breast cancer survivor calls for early diagnosis as screening services return

Breastscreen NSW (Greater Southern) mammography machine Susan Anderson is happy to see the van back in service. Photo: NSW Health.

The word cancer still strikes terror in the hearts of most of us, but it is hoped that further research will help reduce the fear associated with a diagnosis.

Millions of dollars spent on breast cancer research have dramatically improved survival rates and a diagnosis may not be something to be feared anymore.

Julie (last name withheld on request) was living her dream life when she faced the prospect of cancer.

Julie had moved to rural New South Wales with her fiance and 21-month-old daughter-in-law, her career was picking up and she was planning her wedding.

Then in July, everything changed. At 46, she was diagnosed with a progressive form of the most common type of breast cancer in women – invasive ductal carcinoma. If left untreated, it could spread beyond breast tissue and eventually to other parts of the body.

About 80 percent of all breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas and it is the most common type of breast cancer diagnosed in women in Australia.

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With a family history of breast cancer, Julie knew when she saw a shadow under her breast that it could be cancer. She immediately requested a referral for a mammogram and ultrasound.

“My heart collapsed when I heard the words, it’s cancer,” she said.

“You immediately think of the worst.

“You always hear that early detection is the key but, maybe, it never really resonated until I was faced with a diagnosis.”

Within days, Julie held her life in her own hands and was forced to make quick decisions that would affect her treatment plan and her future. It was then that she learned as much as possible about her options for cancer elimination and current treatment.

Julie said she was fortunate enough to have been diagnosed early and that the enormous amount of research into this type of breast cancer has dramatically improved her situation.

Looking back, she said that women don’t need to be afraid of illness, surgeries or treatments, and medical research has provided a much better chance for effective treatment for many.

“The other thing that helped me was talking to people who had followed a similar path – talking to them really made a difference, it still is, it’s a community, a real brotherhood. ”Julie said.

READ ALSO: Breast Cancer Survivor Calls for Rapid Return to Screening Services

Julie has since been recruited for a genetic screening study conducted by Professor Allan Spigelman, Director of St Vincent’s Cancer Genetics Unit, Sydney.

His research focuses on understanding the role of genes in health and disease as a basis for the development of future remedies. In particular, he will research the genetic link between Julie’s family and breast cancer.

Early detection is essential and life-saving breast screening services for women over 40 have resumed in the region after the COVID-19 shutdown.

Nipple shield box

Breastscreen NSW vans are returning to communities across southern NSW. Photo: Supplied.

In southern New South Wales, mobile vans and clinics have reopened in Bega, Crookwell, Moruya and Queanbeyan, and mobile vans will visit Goulburn and Braidwood before the end of the year.

Breastscreen NSW is prioritizing mammograms for women whose appointments have been canceled during the suspension.

The reopening of clinics will be gradual and depending on the risk of COVID-19 in the community. For more information, visit the Breastscreen NSW website or Facebook.

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