With no symptoms, it was an unrelated visit to her general practitioner and a conveniently located mobile screening van that led to an early breast cancer diagnosis for Gold Coast Health nurse Janine Oxley.
“Because I was turning 50, the GP said let’s do a full check-up,” Janine said.
That included a mammogram.
“I thought, I’ll pop online and see if I can find one of the BreastScreen vans because I live on Mt Tamborine and don’t have access to clinics there,” she said.
“I saw there was one coming to the mountain so I made my appointment and off I went.”
With no changes to her breasts, the mother of three was feeling positive about the screening.
“I had the mammogram and I received a call back to say I needed some further investigation. I had the biopsy done and came back in a week to get the results,” she said.
“I thought, no it won’t happen to me, it can’t happen to me, I have no symptoms. When I walked in, I started to get a little scared and then was given the diagnosis. It was cancer.”
Janine required a lumpectomy to remove a tumour and then radiation treatment, which she received at Robina Hospital, a place she usually works caring for others in the Acute Medical Unit.
“It was hard being the patient, not the nurse, that’s for sure,” she said.
The enrolled nurse continued to care for patients, including women with the same diagnosis, throughout her radiation treatment.
“I guess continuing to work and care for others took the focus off me,” she said.
Still, caring for patients with cancer while going through her own treatment was confronting, Janine said.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Janine, who is now in remission, hopes her story will motivate others.
“I’m very lucky there was a van nearby, otherwise who knows, I may have never made that appointment,” she said.
Clinical Director of BreastScreen Gold Coast Dr Ellen Dooris said while COVID-19 had led to cancellations and a steep drop off in tests earlier in the year, the number of women getting screened had already slowly declined over the past few years.
“Currently on the Gold Coast we’re only screening about 50-55% of eligible women. So that’s about 45%-50% of women who aren’t regularly screening,” she said.
“Often breast cancers we find as a part of the screening program are tiny. They are small breast cancers, that’s what we are in the business of trying to find, small breast cancers before you can feel or notice a any change.
“The vast majority of women we detect breast cancers in are unaware that they have a problem until their screening.”
• BreastScreen Queensland provides free, high quality breast screening for women.
• Women aged between 50 and 74 years are recommended to have a breast screen every two years as the evidence of screening benefit is strongest for women in this age group.
• Women aged 40 to 49, and 75 years and over, are also eligible to attend free breast screening.
• BreastScreen Queensland is for women without signs or symptoms of breast cancer.
• It is important for individuals to be aware of the look and feel of their breasts and to see their doctor immediately if they notice any changes, and not wait until their next breast screen.
• BreastScreen Queensland provides free breast screening in more than 260 locations across Queensland, including clinics at Helensvale, Southport and West Burleigh.
• Eligible women can arrange an appointment at their nearest BreastScreen Queensland service by phoning 13 20 50 or book online at breastscreen.qld.gov.au