Lisa Evans and Tracy Tedeschi know all too well the importance of mammograms.
Both women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
However, the news that Bowral BreastScreen temporarily closed due to Covid-19 has led them to share their stories and highlight the importance of mammograms.
Lisa first discovered a lump in her right breast in 2020 while she was in Perth visiting family.
"I discovered it quite by accident," she said.
"I returned to the Highlands and saw my GP who recommended I go for a mammogram and ultrasound immediately at BreastScreen in Bowral.
"This then resulted in me being referred to a specialist in which I was directed to have more scans and tests in Liverpool resulting in me having three surgeries in Bowral, the final one being a mastectomy."
Lisa said that without having her initial scans done so quickly at Bowral BreastScreen, her results could have been very different.
"Having lost far too many friends to this insidious disease and with too many others going through the same battle in the Highlands, I am completely dismayed by the decision made to close Bowral BreastScreen for this time," she said.
"Many people are putting off scans right now but unfortunately cancer doesn't decide to stop for a while or until 'after Covid'.
"And the fact that they are keeping open the ones in the 'lockdown' areas (which they should) yet they decide to close the Highlands one is completely ridiculous.
With no family history of breast cancer, Lisa said it wasn't something that was at the forefront of her mind.
"Cancer is a hideous and scary time," she said.
"What if this happened to me now and I found out that our local one was closed and then the next one was in a lockdown area?
"Maybe it would have been simpler to just ignore it and wait till it reopened but by then I could have become one of those horrible breast cancer statistics?
"As a survivor of twelve months now, I owe it to my friends who have passed, friends currently fighting it, and for all future women, including my own daughter, and men to shout out and not let this happen."
Tracy Tedeschi has always been vigilant about breast cancer, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was only 31.
"I had a thickening on my right breast that had been checked but also ignored by doctors for quite a while," she said.
"I also had regular mammograms, which, because of my dense breast tissue, were always inconclusive... until December 2015."
A few days before Christmas, Tracy woke up to find a large dent in the side of her right breast.
"It seemed to be flat on that side like it was pressed against the glass," she explained.
"I had changed GPs by then and called straight away to make an appointment. After an examination, my doctor immediately booked me in for a mammogram and ultrasound, she actually called to book.
"I just knew the news wouldn't be good."
Tracy will never forget the day her GP called, it was December 24, 2015, at 5:15 pm.
"My GP told me to enjoy Christmas, and that she would see me in between the public holidays with an appointment she made for me.
"My gut wrenched.
"I had Christmas at my house that year and I didn't say a word to anyone, only my husband and I knew.
"My doctor never said the words "I'm sorry you have breast cancer" until I could be physically in her office. I never knew what I was dealing with exactly until early January 2016."
At 49-years-old, Tracy was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
Tracy underwent a flurry of tests and biopsies where the needle broke twice, followed by surgeries, chemotherapy, more surgery, radiotherapy, infections and more surgery.
Her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and her initial tumour was 70mm.
Tracy described her experience as "four years of hell."
"My tumour had remained "hidden" until it decided to burst out and branch out along the top of my breast. That's the thickening I could feel," she explained.
"But I was vigilant with all my women's health as I have a long family history and I believe the quick actions of my new GP and her listening to me also contributed to me still being here.
"We're all guilty of putting things off when it comes to our health, and the cost of mammograms is high when you are under the government guided 'age' of 50 and that may put women off getting one done earlier but did you know mammograms are free from the age of 40?"
"The government hasn't changed the information given about age and breast cancer and preventative testing.
"Sadly, women are being diagnosed with breast cancer at younger ages and even more disturbing is that young women are dying because of the misconception that they're too young to have breast cancer."
Tracy said that early detection was vital for the best chance of survival for breast cancer patients.
"It's imperative that women get to know their bodies and act quickly," she said.
"It's also imperative that our medical teams take notice and act on the concerns of the patient and not just brush it off because it's not 'relevant to their age'.
"While my case is somewhat extreme, I loudly advocate for women's health and will tell anyone who'll listen, not to be complacent about your health because of your age."
Tracy has a blog on Facebook that details her experience with cancer.
"This blog has been the sole reason some of my friends are here with me today," she said.
"My journaling throughout all my treatments has had a positive impact on those who read it and has prompted many women to have that mammogram and ultimately, saved their lives.
"I am outraged whenever I read funding or testing is to be scaled back or cut completely for women's health...the same goes for every illness.
"How much exactly is a life worth?"
While Tracy acknowledges that times are "very strange" and that dealing with Covid-19 is "confusing and tedious", she believes that Covid-19 is sometimes used to cut services.
"I still see my medical team face to face and still have my scans when required (all current protocol followed)," she said
"It's part of my life now as I need to be monitored for the rest of my life.
"I sincerely hope that no woman, or man (men get breast cancer too) will have to deal with the aftermath because of the decision to cancel screening in Bowral.
"It makes me sick to my stomach.
"I wouldn't wish what I've been through on my worst enemy.
"My cancer experience has been no bloody 'journey" it's been a long (and ongoing) dark and frightening nightmare.
"Cancer waits for nothing."
Oncologist Dr Stephen Della-Fiorentina OAM said screening programs were important to find cancers earlier which generally led to better outcomes.
"Having health services closer to home will increase access to care and greater participation in screening programs," he said.
"Any person with a symptom or a lump should contact their GP who can initiate investigations and potentially specialist referral irrespective of the temporary closure of the screening unit."
Currently, there are three locations where women can book in for a mammogram. You can book here.
According to data from 2020, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, while figures from the Breast Cancer Network Australia show that 19,998 women and 170 men will be diagnosed with a form of breast cancer.
Regular mammograms for women over the age of 50 and self-checks for both women and men can help save lives.
How to self check at home according to the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA):
Signs and Symptoms:
Remember, see a doctor straight away if you notice or feel any changes to your breast tissue, underarms or collarbone.
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