There has been quite a bit in the news lately about breast screening hasn’t there? I wanted to write about it from my own point of view.
I received a letter a couple of months ago inviting me for breast screening. My letter started off by saying “The NHS offers breast screening to save lives from breast cancer. Screening does this by finding breast cancers at an early stage when they are too small to see or feel.” Save lives – even if I didn’t know what was coming, I definitely would have been interested after reading that.
In case you aren’t aware what breast screening is, it’s where you receive an x-ray – or mammogram – of your breasts in order that any signs of breast cancer could be detected early. I find it shocking that one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer at some time during their life. That’s a huge amount isn’t it and I find that thought really sad and scary. However there is proof that if it is detected early, then treatment is more successful. I also read that over 55,000 women get diagnosed with breast cancer every YEAR. That’s massive. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK.
For me personally I knew that when my time came to be invited for breast screening, there would be no hesitation and I would definitely go ahead. This is my personal opinion and I know some people might not agree with me.
Along with my letter invitation, I received a leaflet which explained about breast cancer, breast screening and the reason for it, what will happen if I choose to have it, what it feels like, a section about results and then a section about the possible benefits and risks of breast screening. It is made quite clear that you have a choice whether or not to have breast screening.
Basically some of the risks mentioned are these:
About one in every twenty five people will be called back for further tests so this may cause distress and worry.
Some people will be disagnosed with a cancer that wouldn’t have any lasting effect on them, so they will receive treatment that they didn’t really need to have.
There is a small chance that a cancer might not be detected.
Personally I think the benefits outweigh the risks.
Breast screening saves about 1300 lives a year in the UK by detecting breast cancer that can be treated.
Lives are saved because cancers are diagnosed and treated earlier than they would be without screening.
The information leaflet contains easy to understand information and is set out in a way that is completely reader-friendly.
The appointment I was offered was during work time so I gave them a call and was able to reschedule for a day when I knew I’d be off work. There are Breast screening units around the country so there is bound to be one fairly near to you.
Breast screening is offered to women between the ages of 50 to 70 but I have read that women over 70 can request to continue the check ups which is a good thing, I don’t know why they don’t just make it routine to carry it on anyway though because some people might be put off by the fact it’s not routine. With my letter was also another leaflet saying that they are trialling screening for women aged 47 and over. I actually initially thought that I was part of this trial, but then I read in the small print that if you are fifty this year then you are being invited routinely. So I was being invited routinely and not as part of a trial. I personally wish they would do the screening even earlier because it is not just people aged 50 and over that can get breast cancer. It can affect people in their 20s, 30s, 40s or even younger. Please note that I am using the word people, rather than women or ladies because men can get it too.
I absolutely decided that I was going to keep my appointment because breast cancer or any cancer, is such a nasty, non-selective disease. (I hope I’ve chosen the right words there, I mean you honestly never know who is going to get it.) It’s borrible. It can affect anybody and everybody in one way or another. I think most of us are, or have been, affected by cancer at some point in our lives, whether it is us personally or family members or friends. Hideous, disgusting, nasty.
So another opinion of mine here: I think it is so important to attend screening appointments that are offered to us, because it can save lives. I know it is easy to put off things when you are busy, but what’s more important than your health? I do understand though because I’m the first to put things off until another day and we all lead such busy lives right? All I know is a few years ago after a smear test, I was diagnosed with precancerous cells. Whether or not this would have led to full blown cervical cancer I don’t know but I had laser and other treatment which I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t had that initial smear test. I also know of a few people personally who have had abnormalities picked up at breast screening, which enabled them to have treatment for breast cancer and have since had their five years – and beyond – all clear, thank God.
I’ll be honest, I was quite apprehensive about my appointment because a couple of my friends said it’s quite painful and also because it was something new and I think a lot of us get worried or anxious when we are facing something we haven’t done before, think interviews or public speaking. In one way though I wanted it to be over and done with so was kind of looking forward to it – does that sound weird?
I left home in plenty of time so I wouldn’t have to rush or get stressed about getting stuck in traffic or trying to find a parking space. I was lucky as the breast cancer mobile screening unit was near the hospital car park about five miles away from home. So I got to my appointment and nervously went in, I don’t really like going into places I haven’t been before in case I can’t work out where to go or whatever. There was a friendly lady stood by the desk who took my name, checked my details were correct and asked if I’d been before. There was one other lady waiting to be seen and she was engrossed in a magazine so didn’t even notice me going in. I took a seat, as asked, and was called into another room about two minutes later.
This radiographer was really friendly too. I had to take off my top half and then she told me exactly where to stand and helped position me correctly. She took four images. It was uncomfortable and did hurt a bit but she took the x-rays so quickly so the discomfort didn’t last for very long. When I left I was given a leaflet called BE BREAST AWARE which gives more information. I think the whole thing took a maximum of ten minutes and then I was on my way and could carry on with the rest of my day.
I had a really nice afternoon yesterday actually. I went round to an old friend’s (I don’t mean she’s old, you know what I mean!) with a few other friends and we had a lovely catch up over cups of tea and sone delicious home made cake. I love having time off work! 🙂
I’ve got to wait about 2-4 weeks for the test result and I was told that sometimes you might get recalled if it’s your first time because they have no images to compare these ones to. If these results are ok (please let them be 🙏) then I will have to go for my next check in 3 years time.
You can find more information on breast screening on the NHS website here.