It’s 4pm. I’m currently sitting at my desk at work feeling hungry and physically low….
With no family history of breast cancer an extremely fit and healthy Louise McKibbin, 38, had every reason to trust her GP that the results of a fine-needle biopsy on her breast showed nothing to be alarmed about.
As she had been breast feeding at the time, the lump she had been concerned about was deemed likely to be a galactocele – the abnormal collection of milk in the mammary glands.
Believing the biopsy to be clear, Louise continued breast feeding for a further two months. When the lump remained four months later she returned to the GP and asked for a referral for another biopsy and ultrasound.
Concerned that Louise didn’t have a diagnosis from the first biopsy, the radiologist suggested a core biopsy. Seven days after the second biopsy she was on the operating table at John James Hospital having a mastectomy.
Pathology results from the surgery revealed high grade cancer cells which had spread to her lymph nodes requiring a 20 week course of chemotherapy to mop up any remaining cancer cells.
What Louise will never know for certain is whether things would have been less severe if her GP had upgraded the first biopsy to a core biopsy or she had an MRI.
“What I needed to hear from GP at the time was that the fine needle biopsy did not provide a diagnosis of the lump and that we should pursue the matter until we get one. Following up with a core biopsy (which takes are larger tissue sample) would have provided a greater chance of diagnosis – but I wasn’t told that was an option. Because I had no family history of breast cancer and changes often occur when you are breast feeding it was assumed I was probably OK,” says Louise.
“What the GP didn’t make clear was that 80 per cent of breast cancer isn’t related to family history and fit and healthy people do get breast cancer,” she says.
Once the cancer was diagnosed Louise began a “roller coaster of fear and craziness”.
Oncologists and specialists took over her care and wellbeing which meant she never got back to her GP to question what happened.
While she knows it’s was an unfortunate sequence of events, her case is a warning to other women and GPs.
“You can jump on a lump straight away but if you don’t have a diagnosis or you don’t push for one then breast cancer can be missed. Early detection is key in surviving breast cancer so patients and doctors need to be vigilant to diagnose it quickly,” says Louise.
Louise has started a six week course of radiotherapy but plans on running 10km in the Mother’s Day Classic on May 11, the biggest fund raising event for breast cancer research.
For information on how to register, volunteer or fund raise for this year’s event visit the Mother’s Day Classic website.
To support Louise’s fund raising efforts go to https://mdc.mothersdayclassic.com.au/fundraising.php?id=7207