‘Don’t wait until you find a lump’: Breast cancer survivor

Breast Cancer survivor Patricia K’Nell with her husband Christian.

Breast cancer survivor Patricia K’Nell is urging women to make a date with a friend this month to get a mammogram.

The Quakers Hill woman, 64, had no symptoms and no family history of breast cancer when she went in for her fourth regular screening mammogram at Westmead Breast Cancer Institute’s (BCI) Sunflower Clinic at the MYER store in Blacktown in July 2012.

The next month she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery to remove a lump from her right breast, followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and Herceptin treatments for over a year.

Despite enduring hair loss, lethargy and insomnia, Patricia said she felt “very lucky” to have the cancer caught early and be supported by her husband at every appointment.

“There’s no shame with a cancer diagnosis,” Patricia said.

“I am thankful they found it and I’m grateful that we have so much treatment available at our disposal.”

Blacktown City Council supports breast cancer screening with its branded garbage truck.

More than one in eight women in NSW will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, but almost half of women aged 50-74 are not getting their recommended two yearly mammograms.

Westmead BCI Director A/Prof Nirmala Pathmanathan said that by taking the time to talk to a friend about screening and arranging to go for a mammogram together, you could not only save her life, but your own.

“We know there are many reasons why women might be missing their recommended mammogram – they put it off because they are too busy, they are nervous about going, or nervous about the results,” A/Prof Pathmanathan said.

“By encouraging a friend to go with them, women can ensure that making the appointment becomes a priority. It also means that they will have someone to support them on the day and as they get the results.”

Figures from the Cancer Institute NSW show that in Western Sydney LHD, around 600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone.

Seven years on from her diagnosis, Patricia is looking forward to more world travels and hopefully having grandchildren to enjoy in the near future.

“Cancer is a horrible disease but it centres you. It makes you aware of who you are and what you want in life,” Patricia said.

“My advice to any woman is have a mammogram for peace of mind, do it as soon as you can. Don’t wait until you find a lump.”

Lidcombe Shopping Centre is hosting the BreastScreen NSW trailer from November 5-13 to offer women free and convenient breast screening. Appointments are also available at BCI Sunflower Clinics at the MYER stores in Blacktown, Parramatta and Castle Hill as well as Mount Druitt Hospital.

“More than 47,000 women visited a BCI Sunflower Clinic for their free mammogram in the last financial year, and we want to see this encouraging number grow even more,” A/Prof Pathmanathan said.

“Screening mammograms are the most effective way of detecting breast cancer early. With early detection the treatment of breast cancer is less invasive, survival rates are better, and women can get back to their normal lives quicker.”

An appointment for a free mammogram can be made by phoning 13 20 50 or book online at https://book.breastscreen.nsw.gov.au/.

Westmead Breast Cancer Institute (BCI) spends more than $11 million per annum on breast screening, clinical care, research and education.

The institute provided more than 47,000 free breast screens in the 2018-19 financial year and plans to do a similar number in 2019-20.

The NSW Government, through the Cancer Institute NSW, is investing $62.2 million in breast cancer screening this financial year.