'Have your Mammogram – I am here today to tell the tale'
"Please go and have a mammogram – it could save your life. I am here today to tell the tale.”
Helen Casey, from Roscommon, describes herself as “fortunate” and “grateful” that she went for her mammogram. “If I had not gone, there would have been a very different outcome”.
“It is so important that women go and look after themselves and have their mammograms. If they leave it, it can become more serious. Please go – it can save your life”.
She is now urging every woman in Ireland who gets invited by the HSE, not to hesitate and to go for their BreastCheck mammogram without delay.
“I wasn’t going to go for my mammogram. I didn’t think I’d bother, as it was coming up to Christmas and I was very busy at work.”
“I made the right decision”
“What pushed me is that my husband insisted that I should go. I rescheduled and went because I knew that he would keep at it if I didn’t,” recalls Helen. “I can’t believe the difference that making the right decision made”.
“I went for a mammogram previously every two years and this time the van had come to Roscommon and I went. This time though, I got a letter that following week and they recalled me to Galway as a follow up.”
“It all moved quite quickly”
“It all moved quite quickly. This was in December 2016. I had another mammogram and then a biopsy in early December. Then I had an operation a few days before Christmas. They told me that I had breast cancer and in addition to the operations, the treatment would be radiotherapy and chemotherapy. I was told that I was lucky it hadn’t gone any further,” said Helen.
“It is such a shock to be told that you have cancer especially when you have no symptoms. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.”
After recovering from her two operations, Helen began her chemotherapy in early March 2017. She travelled to have her chemotherapy at Ballinasloe and cannot praise the nurses and doctors there enough. “They were absolutely excellent and so nice. They were beyond professional and so very kind. The work that they do is so important and I really appreciate everything that they did for me”.
“The service they provide is exceptional”
Helen began radiotherapy in September and had to travel to Galway for this. Again, she praises the nurses and doctors for their kindness and understanding.
“I got the opportunity to stay at the Inis Aoibhinn residence while having my treatment. The service they provide there is exceptional. You can feel very isolated when you have cancer but here I felt looked after and had my own room and meals and could meet other people going through similar experiences. It meant so much. I had radiotherapy five days a week for a month and was able to go home every weekend.”
Helen has now finished all treatment. “I have met a lot of nice, kind, wonderful people along the way since this happened to me. It’s only when you come out the other side you say ‘how did I get through that?’ but I am always mindful that there are many, many people who are going through worse things than me.”
After her final radiotherapy treatments, Helen went back for check ups and to the relief and joy of her and her family, her last mammogram came up clear and she will not have to have another until next year.
“Not everyone is as lucky as me”
“I now walk every day and keep active. I go to Vita House, (Roscommon Cancer Support Centre) where I meet other men and women who have had cancer. We do chair yoga, tai chi, relaxation and reflexology and reiki and there is also counselling available. I cannot praise them enough”.
“If I had not gone for my mammogram, I would have been in right trouble. It would have been a very, very different outcome if I had left it. Nobody wants to be told they have cancer. Nobody wants to have to think about having radiotherapy or chemotherapy but the wonderful doctors and nurses got me through it and my husband and family and friends supported me so much. I feel very fortunate today”.
Why BreastCheck? - Early detection does work
Even if you have no signs or symptoms, it is really important to attend your BreastCheck appointment, when invited. Breast screening aims to identify people at risk, given that early access to effective treatment is helping to lower deaths from breast cancer.
BreastCheck, part of the HSE’s National Screening Service, screens thousands of women across Ireland on an area by area basis every two years. All eligible women who are registered should be invited by their 52nd birthday, depending on when screening returns to their area.
To date, the programme has provided more than 1.5 million mammograms to over 500,000 women and detected over 9,800 cancers.
Are you on the register? BreastCheck – the National Breast Cancer Screening Programme is free and is providing mammograms to women aged 50 to 66 for screening and by 2021, will have extended the age range to invite women up to 69 years.
Breast Cancer Survival Rates are Improving
While the number of cases of breast cancer in Ireland is increasing, breast cancer survival rates are actually improving.
The aim of BreastCheck is to reduce deaths from breast cancer in Ireland by finding and treating the disease at an early stage for the best possible outcome.
Invest in Yourself
The most recent figures from Ireland’s national breast screening programme show that the initiative has detected the highest number of cancers since screening began - including cancers which might have continued to progress, if they were not identified through screening. Despite this, almost 50,000 women did not attend their mammogram appointment last year.
Given that BreastCheck is aimed at women who have no symptoms, there is no doubt that there are many women who are going about their daily lives, unaware that they may have an underlying issue, until it becomes too late. Helen is glad she is one of the many women who did attend and have her mammogram.
Breast screening is quick, easy and free and the earlier a detection of cancer is identified, the greater the chance of a good recovery.
If you are eligible for screening, BreastCheck urges you to invest some time in looking after yourself by checking the register and attending your free mammogram when invited.
If clients wish, they can check the register register to see if their details - name, address and age – are included and correct on the online database by doing a simple self-search. In addition, those that are not registered but are eligible, can join online.
Not sure what’s involved in a mammogram? Check out the video on the BreastCheck website here.
BreastCheck – the National Breast Screening programme provides free mammograms to women aged 50 to 66 for screening and by 2021 will have extended the age range to invite women up to 69 years.
Check you’re on the register by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55 or visiting BreastCheck.ie
If you notice any symptoms or changes in your breasts or are worried about any breast problem, visit your GP without delay.