After noticing pain in one of her breasts, then 51-year-old Rosanna, received a life-changing breast cancer diagnosis. She has reflected on her breast cancer experience in the hopes of inspiring other women going through their own cancer diagnosis.
When laying on her side in bed, Rosanna noticed pain in one of her breasts. She describes the feeling as a pressure – it would be tender and inflamed one moment, but then it would go down again.
She’d had a cyst in the same breast a few years before, so she thought that’s what this was. Just another cyst. So, she left it for a few months, thinking it was no big deal.
Rosanna was seeing her GP for a completely different reason when she decided to ask them to have a look at her breast. Her doctor sent her off for a scan. When the tests came back the following day, Rosanna was surprised to hear the words, ‘you have breast cancer’.
“I didn’t reach out for support or tell anyone in my family about the diagnosis I was given for almost two weeks. My first and foremost was not to hurt them with this news. It wasn’t about me; my priority was them.” Rosanna says.
She told her family about her diagnosis two days before she went into surgery to have a mastectomy and lymph nodes removed. They were understandably upset and worried for her, but Rosanna says that seeing her strength and calmness in the lead up to the surgery, helped them to cope with the diagnosis too.
There is no right or wrong way to feel when you’re going through a cancer diagnosis – everyone is different. For some people, like Rosanna, it can be a time of reflection and lead to new goals and priorities.
“It’s just changed my life in many ways. You just become so much more grateful for things that you thought were nothing at the time. I’ve learnt that I can keep on going and have become a stronger person from this,” Rosanna says.
“I know cancer can be scary, but I hope that by sharing my story it can help and inspire someone else navigating their own cancer experience.”
Eight months later, Rosanna was laying in bed running her hands over her scar, which she did a lot. But that night, she felt a tiny little lump, almost like a ball bearing.
She went back to her doctor and after some tests, they discovered that it was a local recurrence. Rosanna had another surgery and six weeks of radiotherapy. The treatment was successful, and she is now doing really well.
If you notice a change in your breasts, like Rosanna did, Cancer Council SA recommends you see your doctor as soon as possible.
Every woman should look at and feel her breasts regularly. It is important to know what is normal for you. There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts. Remember to check all parts of your breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone.
Your breasts may look or feel different at different times during your menstrual cycle, so it may be helpful to check your breasts approximately one week after your menstrual period finishes.
Symptoms of breast cancer to look out for include:
- a lump, lumpiness or thickening of the breast
- changes in the skin of the breast, such as puckering, dimpling or a rash
- persistent or unusual breast pain
- a change in the shape or size of the breast
- discharge from a nipple, a nipple rash or a change in its shape.
Women aged 50-74 are eligible for free breast cancer screening every two years, with BreastScreen SA.
For more information about breast cancer screening, visit www.cancersa.org.au/prevention/finding-cancer-early/finding-breast-cancer-early/.
If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you can contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 to speak to an experienced cancer nurse or visit www.cancersa.org.au/support/support-services/13-11-20-information-and-support-service