Check breasts before Pink Ribbon appeal, urges Waikato woman
"Don't think it won't happen to you, because cancer doesn't care who you are," are wise words from Hinuera resident Mariana Mahood.
Awareness campaigns for breast cancer begin in October, and Mahood is encouraging women to start checking for signs of the disease.
"I didn't check myself regularly, but one day when I was doing it I found a lump under my breast about where the under wire of my bra sits.
"If I had checked more often I would have found it earlier, it was quite big so it had obviously been there for some time," she said.
That was on April 29 this year. She was officially diagnosed on May 18.
Her doctor had put her on the semi urgent list, as there was no history of breast cancer in the family and she didn't smoke or drink.
"I had been working part time and going to the gym, I thought it was the healthiest I had ever been," she said.
But within a week and a half she was feeling uncomfortable, and it became painful to wear a bra.
She had an ultrasound privately which meant she was able to detect the problem a lot sooner.
She had to pay for that herself but she encouraged women to set money aside, if they could, so they had that option as well.
Mahood suggested a date of the month to be a day to check yourself.
"I was just waiting until I was 45 for my first mammogram, but if I had, then it would have been way too late. I was 41 when I was diagnosed."
It was a good thing she made that decision, because the cancer had already spread to another lymphnode.
Mahood had a mastectomy (breast removal) and after three months of chemotherapy she must undergo three weeks of radiotherapy.
She would then have five years of hormonal therapy.
Mahood said a new drug was available in New Zealand to treat secondary cancer, which delayed the disease, giving people an extra two years to live.
It wasn't funded though, so people had to spend $5000 a month for the treatment.
She hoped it would be funded if enough awareness was raised.
"About 600 women die of breast cancer a year, and this medicine would benefit about 450 of them," she said.
The Pink Ribbon Street Appeal would be held in Matamata on October 13 and 14, and a walk was being held in Rotorua on October 18.
"I'm going to do it with a friend, but it will be right after my last chemo session so we'll see how I go," said Mahood.
To learn how to check for lumps and register for pink ribbon events, visit breastcancerfoundation.org.nz.
Facts and figures:
- More than 600 women a year die of breast cancer in New Zealand.
- Women have a one in nine chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime.
- 90-95 per cent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
- Māori women have an 42.8 per cent higher incidence of breast cancer than non-Māori women.
- About 20 men will be diagnosed every year.