Breast cancer survivor: Please get screened like I did

Breast cancer survivor Louise Skelton, Consultant Radiologist Joanna Currie and Cate Conway of Q Radio at Malone House, Belfast celebrating 40 years of Action Cancer's unique life-saving breast screening service. Picture by Hugh Russell

A CO Antrim woman whose life was saved by a cancer charity's breast screening service has urged others to follow her example, as figures reveal 300 women die from the disease in Northern Ireland every year.

Louise Skelton's illness was detected by Action Cancer's screening service in January 2015.

The 48-year-old from Newtownabbey said she wanted to share her cancer battle story in a bid to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the service and urge others to use the unique facility.

Action Cancer is the only charity in the UK and Ireland to offer free breast screening to asymptomatic women aged 40 to 49 and over 70. Around 1,280 women are diagnosed with and 300 die from breast cancer in the north every year.

"As soon as I turned 40 I was very proactive and booked my first breast screening appointment with the charity," Ms Skelton said.

"I didn't find the mammogram painful, just slightly uncomfortable and within two weeks I received my letter to say that everything was fine."

The charity asks women to return every two years, but Ms Skelton said "I guess I just let life get in the way" and did not return for six years.

Following a screening appointment in 2015, she was given the cancer diagnosis.

"My first reaction was I don’t feel sick, I'm not ill, so how is there anything wrong with me," she said.

"Hearing the news was devastating but I was resolute that I would fight the cancer."

But after undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, Ms Skelton is now cancer-free and has a strong message for others.

"Go get a mammogram done with Action Cancer, it saved my life and it could save yours too," she said.

"It would have been at least four years before I would be called by the NHS for screening, that would have been too late for me."

Consultant radiologist Joanna Currie said: "This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the 40 years of our unique breast screening service and to recognise the 800 women who have had their breast cancer detected at Action Cancer, the 800 lives saved and also the tens of thousands of women who have been reassured by our screening service.

"The peace of mind it provides is immeasurable."

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