Archives for category: Breast Cancer Screening

Anyone who has ever survived primary breast cancer will know the feeling of fear that lives with you every single day. That is, the fear that the disease will at some point return or metastasise, leading to incurable secondary breast cancer.

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Apologies for the recycled MRI selfie, but you can never have too many selfies

For survivors like me, there is no ‘screening’ for metastasis. But what doctors can do is regularly check the breasts themselves for recurrence, with manual examinations, mammograms and MRI scans.

I, however, have been somewhat confused over the last six months about whether I’m supposed to be having MRIs or mammograms from now on.

So, in my latest post for Breast Cancer Care UK’s Vita Magazine, I talk about the national guidelines and recommendations for MRIs.

Disclaimer: This should by no means be taken as ‘advice,’ because I am not your doctor. But hopefully it’ll give people a better idea about the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s guidelines, and from there you can ask the experts.

Some happy Friday news. I got my MRI scan results, and all is good (or, at least, ‘satisfactory,’ to use the doctor-speak). Here’s what the consultant said:

This is to inform you that your recent MRI scan of your breasts performed at Wythenshawe Hospital was satisfactory and showed no sinister features. We are reassured by this.

We will see you again as planned.

What a relief. I must admit it’s terrifying that I’ll have to wait another year until I have any kind of test again, but in the cancer-survival world, no news is good news.

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In Buenos Aires, at a conveniently named ‘Bar,’ back before any of this ever happened

A year and a half ago, I had my very first mammogram, having just discovered the lump in my left breast while living in Buenos Aires.

Thanks to my health insurance, I had the tests and results all in the same day. Everything was fine. I didn’t have cancer, said the Argentine doctor.

I was given some printed reports and a short letter, which I read and kept, always planning to follow up with the Argentine clinic when I was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer, four months later.

But cancer is time-consuming, and it took me a year after my diagnosis to retrieve the letter and really look into its meaning. It turned out I’d been given the impression I’d got the all-clear, when in fact the medical code in the blurb actually only meant ‘Probably benign.’

Here’s what happened next…

To read the rest of this post in Breast Cancer Care UK’s Vita Magazine, click here.

Mammogram letter

Five weeks after my mammogram and three weeks after the two weeks they said it would take for me to receive my results, this letter came through my door. FI-NA-LLY. Well it’s a good job I wasn’t panicking, isn’t it?

It’s exactly 12 months this week since I started chemo and it’s amazing the difference a year makes. I’m going for a very long-awaited month of overseas adventures now and I’m having a complete break from any kind of blogging, so for those of you who’ve rolled your eyes at the three posts I’ve sent your way this week, rest assured there’ll be no more for a while so you needn’t unsubscribe just yet.

No news is good news!

I just went for my first check-up mammogram, exactly a year and a day since my breast cancer surgery.

20130701-200704.jpgMy boobs didn’t mind the pancake-squashing machine too much and the lady who squashed them in at my new hospital in Stockport was lovely. I know a lot of women say mammograms are comparable to torture, but honestly I don’t find them bad at all – maybe it’s a boob size thing, but I’d take mammograms over needles and cannulas any day of the week.

Anyway, I’ve received a lot of sweet messages on Facebook and Twitter from friends and supporters wishing me good luck, and I just wanted to thank you for those messages and clarify that I’m actually not worried about the results of the mammogram (which should arrive in the next couple of weeks).

I know there’s always a chance of a recurrence in one of my breasts, but those chances are so low after all the chemo and radiotherapy I’ve had that it doesn’t even bear thinking about.

My Worries List is currently occupied by much more mundane concerns such as whether I’ll be able to get visas in time for my big post-cancer trip to southeast Asia and how many times it is acceptable to ask my Dad to hire a van and drive my worldly goods to whichever corner of the globe I happen to be moving to next. (On this topic, I am currently something of a nomad but will be an official London resident as of the end of September).

I know most of my fellow cancer-fighting friends spend oodles of time fretting about recurrence and tests so I don’t want to trivialise the issue at all, but firstly I check my breasts so often these days that I hope I’d detect a new lump quicker than any mammogram anyway, and secondly, the much greater risk to my health would be a metastasis to the brain or elsewhere, and that is something so completely and utterly out of my control that I do my best to purge any thoughts of it from my head the moment they enter.

I’m still waiting to hear about having a possible MRI breast scan in the next few weeks, but apart from that, my next appointment is with my surgeon in six months’ time, and then with the oncologist six months after that. Although I’ve had a lot of hospital visits in the last few weeks while I’ve been transferring from private health to the NHS, I’m now looking forward to fewer appointments in favour of making the most of my very fortunate life!

imageI’m utterly fried from a crack-of-dawn flight from Dublin to Manchester this morning, so I’ll leave you with this pic of me and my boobs enjoying a delicious pre-mammogram cocktail (Gin and Earl Grey Martini – highly recommended) last night. The three of us are toasting our triumphant survival of the last 12 months and, more importantly, a long and happy future together. Cheers to that!

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