A mammogram at Macclesfield General Hospital highlighted changes in the cells of the tissue which were the first indicators something was wrong and Joan moved swiftly.
After a biopsy confirmed consultant radiologist Dr Michael Crotch-Harvey’s initial suspicions, Joan had the tissue removed through a lumpectomy procedure at the Spire Regency Hospital in Macclesfield.
It was followed by radiotherapy to destroy any remaining pre-cancerous cells, but catching the alarm bells early meant Joan avoided the need for more gruelling treatment like chemotherapy or radical surgery such as a mastectomy.
Now, as the nation marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, Joan is encouraging women to regularly check their breasts and also to attend for screening.
“I feel so lucky we caught it so quickly,” the 64-year-old from Siddington said. “I tell all my friends to check their breasts and go for mammograms and I’d urge all women to do the same.”
Around 20 per cent of all cancers detected on the national screening programme have pre-cancer like Joan – where the breast cancer cells are completely contained within the breast ducts and haven’t spread into the surrounding tissue. The condition is not harmful at this stage - but if left untreated can, over a period of years, begin to spread.
In general, research trials estimate that breast screening can help reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by 15 per cent – because the disease is caught when there is the best possible chance of successful treatment.
The most recent findings - the results of a European review into breast screening published last month (September) in the Journal of Medical Screening - also found that at least seven lives were saved for every 1,000 women screened.
Joan said she hadn’t found the procedure stressful or scary and was particularly impressed with the speed at which staff at both Macclesfield District General and Spire Regency hospitals acted.
“It all happened very quickly and efficiently but there was no fuss and no drama,” Joan said.
“On the day of the biopsy, I entered the hospital as a frightened little girl, but the way the team handled me meant my fears disappeared immediately."
“It was performed by two lovely nurses and they put me totally at ease in the way they treated me. They were warm, friendly and welcoming. I did not feel like a number, they genuinely cared for me.”
After receiving the biopsy results and being advised she needed a lumpectomy to remove the pre-cancerous cells, Joan set about researching who should carry out the operation online. She chose specialist breast surgeonMr Jalal Kokan, who performed the procedure at Spire Regency Hospital.
Joan said she was thrilled with her decision. “We already knew of The Spire Regency and its fantastic reputation,” she said. “My mother-in-law and husband have been recent patients there and I cannot speak highly enough of them.
“I can honestly say that from entering the Spire Regency Hospital, although very frightened, I felt calm because of the warm welcome I received – everyone from the reception staff to the nurses and catering staff all treated me as if I was the only patient on the ward. That’s not forgetting Mr Kokan of course, for whom I have so much admiration.”
Following the lumpectomy procedure, Joan was advised she also needed follow-up radiotherapy to destroy any remaining pre-cancerous cells and underwent 15 sessions. Mr Kokan said the awareness month was a great opportunity to stress the importance of attending for screening.
“Of the 48,417 cancers diagnosed in England in 2009, 30 per cent were diagnosed through breast screening,” he said.
“Screening can help detect breast cancers early when they are too small to see or feel - of all the invasive cancers detected on the screening program 40 per cent are less than 15mm in size."
“These tiny breast cancers are usually easier to treat than large ones. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest possible stage have a nine in ten chance of surviving for at least five years after diagnosis.
“I would encourage all women eligible to attend breast screening, as early diagnosis improves survival.”
Now, 10 months on, Joan is happy, healthy and keen to show people the impact screening can have.
She said: “Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great opportunity to spread this important message. “Today I feel great – in fact, I was able to start playing golf again three months after the operation and the course of radiotherapy."
“I am proof that screening works.”
For more information about the specialist Breast Clinic at Spire Regency Hospital or to make an appointment, contact Pat or Annie on 01625 505412 or email email@example.com