A Hidden Breast Cancer
When told she had lumpy, dense breasts, Nicky Roberts had no idea this meant she was at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Flash-forward to 2017 and Nicky is now fighting stage three breast cancer. This is a battle she doesn’t want other women to go through, and the reason she is determined to share her story.
Thanks to your support of Australian Breast Cancer Research (ABCR) Associate Professor Wendy Ingman has proved women with dense breasts are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, discovering a new driver for breast density. You can read the research article here.
This is Nicky’s story…
“Having a history of breast cancer in my family, in December 2014 I went for a mammogram. I had a call back soon after saying there were some calcifications and I had to have a lumpectomy straight away,” she said.
“Just before Christmas I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer on the left side. It was really small and the central nodes were clear so I went off for radiation.”
After the cancer was removed and she received the all clear, Nicky began feeling lumps in both her breasts which she had never noticed before.
“Because I had cancer I started getting good at checking myself, and every time I checked I found a lump in either breast.
“My specialist decided I would have a mammogram and ultrasound every six months to be safe. In June 2016, just after my regular check, I was told there was an area of concern right where my last breast cancer was.
“Within a week I had an appointment with a radiographer who said it’s definitely a cyst and nothing to worry about, but she also said I had very lumpy dense breast.
“She mentioned she would check my other breast while I was there, which I didn’t think anything of as I had just had my scans. Then to my surprise she said ‘I’m really sorry but I can see something’.”
Having a core needle biopsy soon after, Nicky was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time, this time in her other breast and it looked invasive.
Feeling anxious and concerned the cancer had come back so soon, Nicky opted to have a mastectomy.
“Following my mastectomy I got the horrendous pathology response back that said far from being a small cancer, the cancer was 4.8cm and it had spread very significantly into my lymph nodes.
“I’m now stage 3C breast cancer. Because of having breast density, my cancer had been completely missed. Goodness knows how long it had been there, we’ll never know.
“I’ve just finished five months of chemotherapy and have begun radiotherapy. Unfortunately the chances of it becoming stage 4 are huge because of the number and height of lymph nodes the cancer had spread into.”
Having a daughter and nieces of her own, Nicky is passionate about sharing her story to help raise awareness around breast density and how vital the research being undertaken by A/Prof Ingman and her team is.
“I was never told what it meant to have dense breasts. That I not only had a greater risk of developing breast cancer but there was a significantly reduced chance of seeing any tumours through a mammogram and ultrasound.
“I feel very strongly about getting the message of breast density out to all women and supporting A/Prof Ingman’s groundbreaking research.”