At 50, my youngest daughter made me call the local breast screening centre to ask if I had missed a letter inviting me to attend. She said “the late birthday card from the bowel cancer unit came within weeks of turning 50…” Happily the screening centre staff offered to give me an appointment but said I hadn’t missed an invitation, it was just that my GP area wasn’t being called in at that point in time. I went, got an all clear and had one happy daughter.
But every year for the last nine years, someone I know (or know of) has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel I’m in that stage of my life now where breast cancer risk is very real. The invitation letter from the breast screening clinic serves as a reminder of friends who were diagnosed and a great opportunity to get checked out. The ActWELL study has resulted in lots of personal stories about breast screening from my colleagues and there seems no doubt that its just another one of those things busy women fit into busy lives.
Twice in my life I have been tested for serious conditions and have had positive results, so I never undertake screening lightly. However, I know I will accept screening invitations because I know early detection is the key to better outcomes. But, memory and fear are there – and have to be confronted.
So when the last invitation letter arrived I tore it open, noted the date and time and put it in my diary. I admit to completely ignoring the accompanying leaflet despite knowing the care and time that has gone into creating this hugely informative leaflet (OK, I have now read it). I went to the all too familiar screening centre to be met by warm faces (and cold hands!!) and a very routine procedure.
The breast squashing was not sore but my fear level rose with the last view which was more painful (apparently a very common experience). I wondered whether my cheery radiographer colleague could see anything on screen and then would have the job of knowing she couldn’t say anything to me and how would she deal with that. They said the results would come in around 2 weeks. After 6 days I reckoned I would have heard if there was anything wrong and 15 days after the appointment the all clear letter came in.
This letter I did read carefully and the final line jumped out “it is important to keep regularly checking your breasts for any changes”. So my Breast Cancer Now app is installed and is now being used. I’m taking no chances and … I’m using the thingymaboob as a reminder that lumps come in all sizes and of course, I’m keeping up all my healthy ways of life. No promises but I would always regret not trying.