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Marisa counts her blessings

After the results of a routine mammogram test in December 2010 came back clear from her GP, Marisa felt confident that a breast screening detection programme organized by BreastHealth UK through her workplace, Hewlett Packard, 10 months later, would not be cause for alarm.

However, when a specially trained nurse from BreastHealth UK examined Marisa, 54, she noticed a thickening underneath Marisa’s left breast which she thought looked unusual.

“I had never noticed this before. The nurse said it could be nothing, but that I should have it checked, which I did.

“I had another mammogram and my consultant said he was pretty sure it was nothing to worry about, but suggested I should have a biopsy as well, and this showed I had cancer.

“The consultant said it would have eventually formed into a lump, and it could have been a few years before it was found, during which time it could have spread to other parts of my body. I was in shock as this was so unexpected. I couldn’t take it in.

“I feel so very lucky that my cancer was diagnosed very early on, and I dread to think what could have happened if I had not had the BreastHealth UK screening at work which resulted in me having the biopsy, it could so easily have gone undiagnosed for a lot longer.”

Marisa, who lives in Newcastle, had a lumpectomy on 1st December – less than two months after her BreastHealth UK check - followed by 3 weeks of radiotherapy. She had a lymph node removed too, and was relieved to learn that the cancer had not spread there too.

A biopsy of Marisa’s right breast also showed early signs of cancer in situ, which her Consultant will carefully be monitoring for signs that the cancer does not develop further.

“I feel fine now and am back at work full time as a personal assistant. I really urge women to take advantage of cancer screening on offer in the workplace because, like me, they may feel totally fine, but be unaware that their health could seriously be at risk. I feel fortunate in having employers who take the health and well being of their staff seriously and provide cancer screening detection for us.

“It has been an horrendous year for me, I still think about it every day, but I count my blessings and am so thankful that I had the breast cancer screening check and that the cancer was diagnosed early on.

“I strongly urge other women to do so as well, and to take advantage of cancer awareness programmes offered in the workplace showing women how they should correctly examine themselves and be aware of warning signs for this terrible disease.”

Professor Gordon Wishart, Clinical Director, BreastHealth UK commented “This is not an atypical event, as mammography is less sensitive in younger women or women with denser breast tissue. For this reason BreastHealth UK only advocates mammography in women under 50 if they have an increased risk of breast cancer according to an internationally validated risk assessment test.”

“In Marisa’s case it was the expert treatment of a highly trained and experienced breast care specialist which identified the abnormality. Not only was the abnormality discovered without the use of mammography, but Marisa and all other clients also received training in breast awareness and self examination placing them in the 1st line of defence against breast cancer.”

“Companies like HP should be applauded for supporting Department of Health initiatives to detect cancers early and save lives by early intervention. We hope that in future more companies will support early detection programmes for cancer and offer BreastCheck and other health checks to their staff.”

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