Jane Flemming’s Story
At my current age of 52, I went in for an annual pap-smear. I told my GP that I was tired and explained that I’d been waking up from hot flashes. She recommended low-dose estrogen- but not before she instructed me to get a mammogram. Being a good patient, I listened and very promptly got tested. However, after a mere ten-minute session, my life would change drastically.
A week following, I was told to go to Randwick Hospital because they had found 3 minuscule white dots on my mammogram. Despite this unsettling news, I was assured that only 1 in 20 women who require follow up testing ever have a problem, so there was no need to worry. The doctors explained that the dots could simply be the result of wear and tear.
Being fit and healthy all my life, I was confident that this was the correct assumption.
Because I didn’t have enough breast tissue for a needle biopsy, I had to go in for a full surgical biopsy. I was told there was a four-day waiting period for the results, but on day three, I received a heart-shattering call. My surgeon confirmed that I had tested positive.
As if this news hadn’t thrown me for enough of a loop, she then added that there was one spot the next day for an immediate surgery. I took a few deep breaths, called my husband, and we decided to go for it.
After the surgery, I waited two and a half agonizing weeks for the results. Unfortunately, the results weren’t ideal and the doctors couldn’t find a clear margin. The next step involved me deciding to go through with a double mastectomy. The final trial of my journey was ultimately one more call from my surgeon, saying that she needed to remove any remaining breast cells from my body.
From all these experiences, I realised how important it is to know about breast density and the linked effects it can have on detecting breast cancer.
My pathology results confirmed that I had dense breasts, something I had never heard of. Had I known this sooner and actually understood what it meant, I would have been getting checked more regularly and thoroughly. I’ve learned that breast cancer is random and anyone can be diagnosed. Although I ate healthily, drank rarely, and exercised frequently, I was not automatically immune- and my density put me at a higher risk. For women who are unsure of their density, I advise you to ask at your next check-up. And for women who aren’t receiving normal check-ups, I hope you realise that one mammogram can save your life.