How Cancer Screening Saved My Life

This blog was written after Janis shared her story with me.  She wanted it published to encourage all women to go for breast screening when invited.

I am passionate about the importance of screening.  My mother died of breast cancer in 1989 having had a mastectomy in 1981 when her cancer was first diagnosed.  Because of this I have lived my adult life with the feeling that I too would one day be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Given my family history I could have opted to be tested to see whether I had the gene that would mean it was likely I would get cancer, but I decided not to do this.  I felt that if I knew I was carrying that gene I would then have to decide whether to live with it and see what happened, or opt for a double mastectomy. However I always went for breast screening and three years ago I was recalled and I thought this is it now.  It wasn’t, but the last time I was screened and recalled I knew that this time, cancer would be confirmed.

Luckily my cancer was found at a very early stage and because it was caught at this time I did not need to have chemotherapy.  I was given the choice of a mastectomy or lumpectomy and the consultant explained that my decision would make no difference at all as to whether the cancer might return.  I took the less invasive option, the lumpectomy.

What is interesting is the way people respond to you when you have cancer.  They are terribly concerned and will continuously ask how you are feeling.  I actually felt fine. I find it ironic, as I have suffered from a knee problem that is incredibly painful and debilitating but people couldn’t care less about that!

I am lucky I have a very supportive husband who encouraged me to make the decisions that felt right for me.  It has been a difficult time for him as he also saw my mother die of the disease.

In some ways my diagnosis was a relief as I felt like I had been waiting for it to come.  Once it was confirmed I could get on with the treatment and get it sorted.  I know that the screening service has saved my life, but importantly it has also meant I can make the right choices for me.  I know some women find the screening uncomfortable but it is only for a few minutes and it is so important.  If you take any message from this blog it is please, please do not put off being screened.  It could save your life.

Here are some signs that indicate you should seek a medical consultation:

  • Any sudden weight loss when not dieting.

  • Blood in your faeces or urine.

  • Coughing up blood.

  • A lump in the breast, groin, testes, side of the neck or armpit.

  • Severe, unexplained pains or aches

  • Bloating

  • Frequent urinating

  • Back pain

  • Bleeding when you have gone through the menopause