When mum-of-two Mandy Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine screening, her family were in shock.
Mandy had already lost two sisters to lung cancer and the news came as a devastating blow.
But after undergoing surgery to have the cancer removed followed by radiotherapy, the 61-year-old is now in remission and no longer on any medication.
Mandy cannot praise the staff at QA who supported her enough. She is now looking towards a bright future with her family, and wants all women invited for breast screening to attend what is on average a 10-minute appointment: “I can’t express enough times to every woman who has reached 50 years old - if you’re invited to a breast screening, for goodness sake go,” Mandy said.
“My cancer was already stage three, I really was lucky and it was only because I chose to go to my appointment when invited that it was found. The type of cancer I had does not show as a lump, and can only be identified by a Mammogram.”
Women aged between 50 and 70 who are registered with a GP are invited to a routine breast screening every three years. Mandy has attended all of her appointments to date.
Her plea comes as latest figures show that of the 25,901 women invited for a breast screening check in Portsmouth and south east Hampshire in 2017/18, 19,163 took up the offer (72.5%). This means 6,738 women missed out on the potentially lifesaving check.
However these figures are above the national average of 70.5% in the same period. The NHS Breast Screening Programme routinely invites all women from the age of 50 to their 71st birthday.
For Mandy, her journey began when she was invited to attend a routine mammogram at a mobile unit in her local supermarket. After going along on her given date and time, Mandy then went away on holiday and carried on as normal.
After arriving home, Mandy received a letter informing her that further investigation was to be carried out on the following Monday. After a biopsy was taken, another appointment was then made for a week later, and this is when Mandy received the news.
Mandy said: “I met with a doctor and nurse, and they told me they were afraid to say it’s come back positive for breast cancer. However, it was very early stages so they didn’t want me to be alarmed. That then meant they needed to do further investigations, and to also remove the cancer.”
After this further examination from a doctor a date was made for December, around a month after Mandy’s initial appointment, to have the cancer removed from the left hand side of her breast. Mandy’s two children Tara, 30, and Marc, 33, as well as her husband Marcus, were a great support throughout the process, as were the dedicated team at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
Mandy, an Account Manager from Bedhampton, said: “I wasn’t worried because everything had been explained so well. At each stage the nurses had reassured me that if I was worried to call them, as they’re there all the time. I was also given lots of literature and details about Macmillan, and this made things less scary. I come from a nursing background so I decided not to google anything!”
Mandy has praised the team at QA for their support and help throughout her breast cancer journey, and couldn’t be happier with the treatment she received.
Mandy explained: “The nursing staff were absolutely magnificent…my doctor was also brilliant, a really lovely lady. She was very calm, and explained everything very well.”
Mandy did not have to undergo chemotherapy, however she did have radiotherapy.
She explained: “I had fifteen sessions of radiotherapy. That was every day, and took five-to-10 minutes once it was taking place. The guys look after you so well. When you go to the waiting area, everyone there has cancer and you know you’re all in the same boat. There was always someone to chat to.”
Mandy’s operation to remove the cancer was successful, and she has said that the scar line was nothing to worry about.
She said: “I came round after the operation and had a cup of tea and a sandwich. There was no pain and hardly any discomfort at all, and then my husband came and took me home the same day. It could not have been any better. Really for me, it was no worse than an ingrown toe nail!”
Mandy is keen for women to ensure they always attend their breast screenings when invited, as they can truly be lifesaving: “People panic when they hear the word cancer, but my family took the news worse than I did,” Mandy said. “Because of the support you immediately receive straight after they say ‘cancer’, you have a huge support team around you. Literally anything we needed was provided, and both my family and I were so well looked after.”
Mandy now holds a strong focus on wellbeing - she no longer drinks alcohol, and is eating a healthier diet. Mandy is also eager to promote physical wellness after facing devastating loss in her close family.
Mandy says: “One of my sisters died of lung cancer last year, and eight years ago my other sister died of the same disease. You really have to make sure you do your very best and look after yourself.”
For more information on breast cancer screening, please see https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-cancer-screening/