A nurse at Leicester General Hospital is urging women to attend check-ups they are invited to after a routine mammogram revealed a fast-growing tumour which needed immediate treatment.
Within a month of the mass being discovered, the specialist sister of the renal department underwent surgery, which she said saved her life.
The NHS’s breast screening programme provides free breast screening every three years for all women in the UK aged between 50 and 70. The programme is now being gradually extended to women aged 47 to 49, as well as to those aged 71 to 73.
Women are sent a letter inviting them for a mammogram at the relevant time, and Sue is urging recipients to take up the offer.
After undergoing her scan in 2019, the now 57-year-old was recalled for further investigation – and quickly went from caring for patients to being a patient herself.
“I’m naturally an optimistic person,” she said. “You have your mammogram and then you get a recall letter saying, ‘A lot of women get called back for re-scanning and there’s often nothing wrong’, and that’s what you focus on.
“When I went back for the re-scan, the consultant radiographer explained immediately that she was very concerned and that it definitely needed further investigation.”
Within a month, Sue was given a date for breast surgery at the breast care centre at Glenfield Hospital.
“I had my mammogram in September 2019, then by the middle of October I’d been given a date for surgery, so it was very quick,” said Sue.
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“I went to Glenfield and had the tumour removed, and some breast reconstruction surgery.
“It had all gone very well, but because the cancer had been growing so rapidly, they wanted to be certain that no cells had escaped, so I was given six sessions of chemotherapy followed by five sessions of radiotherapy.”
Sue’s treatment was successful, and she was allowed to return to normal life, including full-time work. She now gets regular check-ups to help detect any possible recurrence as soon as possible.
“One thing I want to really emphasise to all women out there is, please do go and attend your routine mammograms – mine really did save me,” she said. “Even though it might be uncomfortable for a few seconds, we should all go and have our routine screening when called.”
Sue praised the “amazing” care she received at the breast centre, and is now urging people to take part in a virtual event to help raise money for breast care at Leicester’s hospitals.
“The atmosphere in the breast care centre, as you would imagine, is always very positive, very welcoming,” she said.
“Everyone is on first-name terms. Having been through it as a patient, I’m extremely grateful for the breast care centre and the staff there.
“I wasn’t kept waiting in the waiting areas hardly at all – it was all very fast flowing. Looking back, it is amazing to think that I had such significant surgery all in a day. I went in in the morning, had the surgery in the afternoon and was allowed home in the evening after ticking all the post-op boxes. It was so impressive.”
Leicester Hospitals Charity has arranged a Virtual Butterfly Walk to take place on Saturday, June 26, to raise funds for breast care services.
Sue said her experience as a patient was all down to the generosity of those who donate to the regular event.
“Having such a calming, pleasant environment as a result of the money raised through the Butterfly Walk really helps when you’re there having to process the news,” she said.
“Little things like special robes for patients to wear rather than your standard hospital gowns – it really makes a difference.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has raised money for the breast care centre. I am so grateful for your support, and I sincerely hope you join the Virtual Butterfly Walk this year.”
The virtual event will see participants walk five kilometres around their gardens, local parks or neighbourhoods to show support for the centre and those receiving vital treatment.
For more information about the Virtual Butterfly Walk, visit the website here.