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What it’s like to be diagnosed with breast cancer

Jenny and Tony Inggs
Jenny and Tony Inggs

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women and it is estimated that over 18,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed amongst Australian women in 2018.

It is recommended that Queensland women aged 50 to 74 years participate in BreastScreen Queensland’s free breast screening program every two years. Most women receive the all-clear after their breast screen, but some are called back for further tests.  

BreastScreen Queensland is part of the national BreastScreen Australia program that provides access to free and accredited screening and assessment services, to eligible women every two years.

We spoke to Jenny about how a breast screen lead to a breast cancer diagnosis that may have saved her life.

What it’s like to find out you’ve got cancer

Jenny Inggs has been going for regular breast screens for the last five years. She always received her letter back saying she was all clear until her most recent breast screen in June 2018.

“Following my breast screen I got the call on Friday from the BreastScreen Queensland Service at Nambour telling me they had found an irregularity in my right breast. I got an appointment to go and see them the following week.”

“It was an agonizing week. I knew in my own mind that something was wrong and had the normal “why me” conversation with myself many times.

“I then decided that whatever the results would be I had to face them and just take it one day at a time. I had to reassure my husband Tony a lot during this time as he was worried.”

Jenny and Tony Ingg

Jenny and Tony returned to the BreastScreen Queensland Service where staff did their best to make them feel comfortable while Jenny had biopsies taken.

“They explained everything so clearly and reassured us throughout our time there.”

“The only problem was that they needed to do more biopsies further back in the breast, so I had to go back again the next week.”

Jenny’s tests confirmed she had breast cancer. Following this, Jenny’s doctor advised that the best treatment option would be to have a mastectomy followed up with radiation treatment.

“The doctor told me then that I could have a reconstruction done at the same time as the mastectomy which made me feel a bit better.

“I have now had my surgery and began my radiation treatment in October.”

“The whole process was quick and not as scary as one would think. Everyone right through the whole process were very helpful, informative and most of all cheerful.

“I would hate to think what would have happened if I had not had my regular breast screen done.”

Finding out your partner has breast cancer

When someone is diagnosed with cancer the focus is normally on the person who is sick. But a cancer diagnosis also effects partners and those close to the patient. Jenny and Tony Inggs have been married for 38 years. When not spending time with their grandchildren, Tony prints models on his 3D printer and Jenny paints them.

“The day Jenny got the call saying that there were some irregularities in the latest mammogram was very frightening and really worried me. It was like the same thought a lot of people have “Why is this happening to us?””

“The worry and panic got worse when Jenny had her scans and biopsies at the BreastScreen Queensland Service at Nambour hospital. Jenny as usual was being the strong one and handling the whole situation incredibly well.”

Tony says the staff at BreastScreen Queensland Service at Nambour were fantastic and they did their best to keep him calm.

“We were then given the full story on Jenny’s biopsy and what would be happening from then on. The doctors were very caring and made things very easy for us to understand, the nurse consultant Leonne was a pillar of strength to both of us.

“My advice for other partners going through this is that they must just be strong and patient with their partners. Also, don’t panic about things that are not there just focus on the positive. Talking to people who have been through the same ordeal also helps.”

Need to book a BreastScreen?

It is recommended that Queensland women aged 50 to 74 years-old participate in BreastScreen Queensland’s free breast screening program every two years. The breast screen is fast and conducted by a female health professional.

There are 260 locations around the state and is easy to book an appointment online or over the phone by calling 13 20 50. There is no need for a doctor’s referral.

A breast screen (you might know it by the term ‘mammogram’) is an x-ray that can pick up small changes in breast tissue that are too small for you or your doctor to feel or see. This means it can help catch breast cancer in early stages increasing chances of survival and mean that treatment is less invasive.

You can read more about breast screening in Queensland and book your next appointment on the BreastScreen Queensland website.

Here are 5 reasons why you should book your breast screen.

See your doctor about any concerns

It is important to be aware of the normal look and feel of your breast. If you find a breast lump, nipple discharge or any breast changes that are of concern or you are experiencing any worry or anxiety about breast cancer, make an appointment to talk about it with your doctor.

Last updated: 18 December 2018