‘Action Cancer saved my life’

Joan Holden from Ballymena is sharing her breast cancer story in the hope to encourage other women aged 40-49 and 70 plus to avail of a free breast screening with Action Cancer.

Joan Holden from Ballymena is sharing her breast cancer story in the hope to encourage other women aged 40-49 and 70 plus to avail of a free breast screening with Action Cancer.

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A Ballymena woman has chosen to share her own breast cancer detection story to encourage others aged 40-49 and 70-plus to avail of the free service provided by Action Cancer.

Widow Joan Holden’s breast cancer was detected in her 70s following an appointment with the breast screening service for women aged 40-49 and 70+ at Action Cancer House in Belfast.

She said: “Since I turned 70, I have been a few times for a mammogram, driving myself up to Action Cancer. They recommend that you go every two years but to be honest I hadn’t been that good at attending regularly.

“It was the very fact that my hairdresser, a lady half my age, had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, that I decided it was about time I went back to Action Cancer for a check-up. The procedure itself only takes a matter of minutes, it is slightly uncomfortable but definitely not painful.”

It was on this most recent visit in July 2015 when something was detected by the charity who informed Joan that further investigation was required.

Joan attended Antrim Area Hospital where she had a number of assessments including an ultrasound which found something in the right breast. “The medical staff were able to look at my mammogram history since turning 70, which had been provided by Action Cancer and this proved to be very useful indeed,” Joan said.

A few weeks later Joan went for a bone scan and CAT scan after which it was confirmed that there was cancer in her right breast and also in one of her ovaries. Joan had an operation on October 6 - her right breast was removed and her ovary was taken away.

“During the operation my lymph nodes were also removed and tested but thankfully they all came back as clear and the cancer had not spread to other parts of the body. As a result I was just prescribed a tablet named Anastrozole, there was no other treatment required. Following my recovery, I can use my right arm just the same as before. I was driving again within three weeks and I quickly got back to enjoying my hobby, playing at the Ballymena Golf Club near Broughshane. My golf isn’t great- but there’s nothing new there!”

Joan explained why she is now acting as an Action Cancer Ambassador: “I feel that I owe my life to Action Cancer and now I want to give something back. I’m now telling other ladies to go for screening and I have even offered to drive them up to Belfast! The Action Cancer service is really good, it’s free so go and use it!”

Women aged 40-49 and 70 plus can book their free breast screening appointment either online at www.actioncancer.org or by calling 9080 3344.