REAL LIFE

Woman almost cancelled the mammogram that saved her life

Now a cancer survivor, she's warning women to not put off these life-saving examinations.

Kerri Welsh, 55, Melbourne, Vic

  • One in eight Australian women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and early detection is vital.
  • If you’re aged 50–74, a mammogram with BreastScreen NSW every two years is free, and could save your life.
  • To book, call 13 20 50 or visit breastscreen.nsw.gov.au. For information about other states, go to cancerscreening.gov.au

‘I’m sorry, I have to cancel my appointment,’ I told the receptionist over the phone.

I was due to go for a mammogram at 5pm, but I was still stuck at my desk.

I’ll never get out the door in time, I sighed. I’d already put the appointment off, but as I hadn’t felt any lumps, I wasn’t too worried.

‘Actually, we open late, if that helps?’ she said. So I booked for a couple of weeks later.

Arriving at the BreastScreen clinic, I knew what to expect. Six years earlier I’d had a non-cancerous lump removed from my breast. This time I felt confident. I was 48 with no family history of breast cancer.

Three days later my phone rang.

‘We’ve found something. Could you come for another mammogram?’ a nurse said. My heart sank, but I stayed calm.

‘It’s probably another benign lump,’ I said to my husband Rennie, 50.

When I arrived at the clinic with Rennie, I counted 18 other women in the waiting room. After my mammogram, I noticed some women were given the all clear and went home with relieved smiles. I, on the other hand, had to stay for an ultrasound.

“The world stood still and I burst into tears.”

Afterwards, more women were sent home but I had to stay for more tests. Finally, there were only three of us remaining. 

I felt a ball of fear in my stomach.

‘Rennie, if it’s bad news, will you listen carefully to everything they say?’ I asked, worried I’d be too overwhelmed by it all. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the news.

‘I’m sorry to say you have cancer,’ the doctor said. ‘We’re going to have to remove your right breast.’

The world stood still and I burst into tears. I didn’t have a lump, but I had cancerous tissue around my milk ducts that only a mammogram could have picked up.

Two weeks later, my breast was removed and six days later I was given the all clear. 

‘You don’t need chemo or radiotherapy,’ I was told. It was a huge relief.

Then, the following year I had re-constructive surgery to re-build my right breast.

I’m grateful I had the chance to catch the disease early. I urge other women to get their breasts screened. It could save your life.

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