When medtech gives you good news
To shine a light on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Karen Finn shares her story about the importance of breast screening.
Last year, I was having some pain in my left breast and it felt like there were some physical changes, so my doctor recommended that I have a mammogram. Even though I’d had my regular screening less than six months earlier and everything had come back clear, I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax until I got another “all clear” so I agreed it was a good idea.
After all, about one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and it‘s the most common type of cancer in the UK.1 A mammogram can detect breast cancer up to two years before the tumour can be felt, which means treatment can start sooner and your chances of a full recovery go up. It’s not clear exactly what causes breast cancer, but eating a healthy diet, being more active each day and maintaining a healthy weight are important ways to reduce your risk.
At the doctor’s I was asked whether I wanted a 3D image or the standard 2D mammogram, and it was recommended that I should get the standard one as I was considered low-risk as my previous images had come back clear. While 2D mammograms take x-rays of the breast from the front and the side to create a single image of each breast, 3D mammograms take many images of each breast from different angles, showing each layer of breast tissue.
I was shocked when I got a call the next day saying that they had found something on the image that and I needed to come back for “further investigation”. Back at the doctor’s, I had an ultrasound scan, which uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your breasts, showing any lumps or abnormalities. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long and within about 15 minutes, I had confirmation that everything was fine – it was just a cluster of benign cysts.
Needless to say, I was relieved! I’m keenly aware that many women, including some close friends, have not been as fortunate. It’s now a year later and I’m about to book in for another mammogram and ultrasound. Most women don’t need to have scans every year, but my doctor recommended it for me because she wants to monitor the cysts and catch any potential changes as soon as possible. To be honest, I would love to bury my head in the sand and put it off, but I’m forcing myself to pick up the phone because I know that early detection saves lives.
I feel incredibly lucky to have access to these medical technologies, so I’m not going to take my good fortune for granted. It’s scary, but the potential consequences of not doing it are even scarier.
1Cancer Research UK, Breast cancer statistics, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer