Friday, 13 March 2015

Action Cancer Breast Screening - My Mammogram Experience

This is WAY off topic but just so important so bear with, bear with...
Last year, a friend of mine told me about Action Cancer NI and their free mammogram screening for women aged 40-49 (NHS screening starts at age 50). We had a mutual friend whose cancer was found at age 50 on her first NHS mammogram. Had she been screened at a younger age, she may not have had to endure the treatment she did (thankfully all is good with her now, but it was a long, tough battle).


Anyway, the screening was in the back of my mind and as you do, I kept putting it off and putting it off. Until the team at Action Cancer got in touch and asked me to help promote one of their events. I was starting to get the sense that some other force was encouraging me to get my act together so back in February, I made my appointment online. Really simple to do...I was able to secure an appointment the following week and there were regular email and text alerts to remind me of the date and time and offering me the option to re-arrange if necessary.


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The screening takes place at the Action Cancer head office on the Malone Road/Marlborough Park (and also on the mobile Big Bus - which travels around the province), so I headed there a couple of weeks back to have the procedure done. I was really nervous - I'll not lie. I'm very squeamish when it comes to medical stuff and I wasn't looking forward to having my boobs squashed flat four times. But I focussed on the bigger picture and the fact that the appointments are 10 minutes apart so it was sure to be a fast procedure.


I was brought into a small reception area and given a short questionnaire to complete, which asked the usual personal information/medical history.
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Then I was brought through to the consulting room with a female radiographer and all I had to do was slip my top and bra off and stand in front of the machine. The radiographer assisted me throughout the process which involves two images taken of each breast. Each image takes about 10-15 seconds and the machine automatically releases the breast once the image has been secured.


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Was it painful? In my case, I'll be honest and say yes..though only for the briefest of moments. Now this is not always the case and I know some friends for whom it didn't hurt at all. It can depend on the time of the month and just generally your pain threshold. In any case, the pain did not sustain beyond the procedure itself though I did feel a little lightheaded for a while afterwards so once I got home, I had a huge coffee and a wagon wheel (or 2). I can recommend this remedy for most days - not just the ones you have a mammogram on :)


So - now for the practicalities. Action Cancer offers this service free of charge to women between the ages of 40 & 49 and those aged over 70. Between 50-70, you are eligible for NHS screening in your local health board. Now each mammogram does cost the charity £80 so you are invited to make a voluntary donation (of any amount) if you are able to. It's all very discreet - you're given an envelope and you can pop it in a box en route out of the screening room so it's genuinely whatever you can afford.


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Despite diagnosing about 6 cancers from every 1000 tests carried out, Action Cancer receives no government funding for this work at all and relies solely on donations.
Women aged under 40 are not offered mammograms as there is no evidence to show that they're beneficial in this age group - younger breast tissue is more dense and it's harder to pick up abnormalities. However, if you have a concern and you're aged below 40, your GP can refer you for appropriate investigations.


But there's another fabulous way to support the charity - one I wholeheartedly approve of! Action Cancer have revolutionised the charity shop concept with their 'boutiques' and I've been in two of them in recent weeks and they are amazing! The Something Different shop on the Lisburn Road has been a regular haunt of mine since December as I trawl Belfast for quirky bits and pieces for our new home. It's a treasure trove of vintage furniture, decorative items, clothing and books/records with very reasonable prices.
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Then I discovered that there's a new clothing store in Lisburn that's been fitted out in a similarly quirky/vintage way. It looks nothing like your usual charity shop with trend-driven merchandising, lots of mannequins, fabulous wallpaper and spacious changing rooms.
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AND it's the store where I found a Burberry Mac, which you will have seen if you follow the Facebook page.


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So if you want another way to fund this incredible service, do a massive wardrobe clear out and bring it down to your nearest Action Cancer shop... There are 17 in total across NI and while you're there, pick up some new bits and pieces. It's a win/win.


8 days later my letter arrived and I'm happy to report that my mammogram results were normal.
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Cue a huge sigh of relief....but a huge sense of how worthwhile the process is for peace of mind. How blessed we are to have such a service available to us free of charge?


I hope this (slightly curveball) piece is helpful...please PM me or leave a comment if you've any questions at all and if I can't answer them, I'll pass them on to someone who can. In the meantime, if you're in the vicinity of Hillsborough Forest Park on Saturday, Action Cancer are holding a Mother's Day walk for all the family - full details on this link.


Thanks


Ax


 
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11 comments

  1. Great post Avril & what a fantastic service, you are indeed lucky. And the shop...... I'd love a browse around it (bit of a trek from Cork unfortunately)..

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  2. Thanks for this Avril - such an important topic to share and one close to my heart. Who cares if it's off topic when it could potentially save someone's life. Very glad your results were clear and I'll def visit the new shops - a friend was telling me how great the furniture one is.

    Nic x

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  3. Thanks for this Avril. Really interesting & potentially life saving. Great having you back blogging : ) j x

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  4. Thanks for sharing this Avril. It is the kind of thing we all put off and push to the back of our minds but seeing and hearing about your experience makes it seem a lot less scary. What a relief that you didn't have to wait too long and your results were normal xx

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  5. GREAT blog post and I hope someone somewhere is prompted to go for a mammogram off the back of this.
    Can I just say ... your charity shops are so stylish! Ours our like the traditional ones we all know and love - with the special smell that can only come with hundreds of items from hundreds of clothes!

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  6. Such an important thing to do - the mammogram AND the shopping! I get one every year due to my mother's breast cancer. Between that and my own cancer check ups, I've regular scary intervals annually. But all are important. Must check out that new charity shop - no idea where it is - must go hunting!

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  7. Great post Avril. Having a mammogram is not the most pleasant experience, I'd rather be looking at clothes on the internet - obvs - but it's so important. I'm glad to hear your results came back clear xx

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  8. This is a great post Avril and a great way to raise awareness. I was randomly selected for early screening last year and I'll be honest I also kept putting it off, I'm such a wimp, it wasn't the most enjoyable of experiences and I was terrified of the results but thankfully the results were normal. I don't blame you for having 2 wagon wheels though - they're not half as big as they were when I was a bairn! xx

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  9. Ingrid McCarroll18 March 2015 at 21:04

    Avril
    I too availed of the service, via the Big Bus. It was conveniently located close to Ballymena, thus saving me a drive to Belfast - and I booked online too.
    Like you, I was nervous, although moreso of the result than the process itself. I've been reliably informed by my peers that the ample bosomed amongst us feel less pain! I felt no pain, so can concur with this opinion

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  10. Ingrid McCarroll18 March 2015 at 21:07

    Avril
    I too availed of the service, via the Big Bus. It was conveniently located close to Ballymena, thus saving me a drive to Belfast - and I booked online too.
    Like you, I was nervous, although moreso of the result than the process itself. I've been reliably informed by my peers that the ample bosomed amongst us feel less pain! I felt no pain, so can concur with this opinion

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  11. Well done for highlighting this worthy cause Avril! What a find that Mac was! I can't believe you didn't buy it! x

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I love reading your comments and will reply as soon as I can if you have a specific question. If for any reason, you are unable to leave a comment, just drop me an email at avril@alifetostyle.com or leave a comment on the A Life to Style Facebook Page! Thank you xx

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