Rachel Evagelou’s aggressive, stage-three breast cancer diagnosis came as a “huge shock” because the 48-year-old believed she was still a couple of years shy of having to get a mammogram.
Speaking to ABC News, the mother of two said it was only “a fluke” that she made the appointment to be screened after she came across a friend’s Facebook post urging all women to book a breast cancer test.
“I didn’t go along to have my mammogram because I had felt anything or had any symptoms,” Ms Evagelou said.
“And one of the scariest things about my cancer is that it only started growing about eight to 12 weeks before I was diagnosed.”
Ms Evagelou’s fast-growing, seven centimetre lump had split into two malignant cancers. But the sinister growths had not yet managed to spread outside of her left breast — a small consolation that came with the terrible news.
“I had no idea that it was going to be this bad,” Ms Evagelou said.
“Cancer is a nasty thing.”
The Federal Government has long offered free screening mammograms for women from the age of 40. But its approach to advertising the tests has been criticised, as women are not alerted to the free screening program until they turn 50 — despite becoming eligible a decade earlier.
Ms Evagelou said that process led her to assume she was not yet at risk.
“I was under some sort of idea that you go and get your mammogram once you turn 50, or if breast cancer runs in your family, and it’s not the case at all,” she said.
“I don’t have breast cancer on either side of my family. I’m not 50.
“Cancer can get you at any time.”
The head of Federal Government-run Cancer Australia said communicating the free mammogram service was “tricky” and “a little bit complicated”.
“The evidence shows that screening becomes cost effective … when you reach 50,” Cancer Australia CEO Professor Dorothy Keefe said.
Professor Keefe said around 19,800 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Australia, and 16 per cent of those are aged in their 40s.
Ms Evagelou dressed in 1950s pin-up attire for the “awful” five-hour treatment. She has adopted the social media moniker ‘Cancer pin-up doll’ on Instagram, where she expresses her bubbly personality despite the disease, and promotes earlier detection among her peers.
“This whole thing about being 50 and waiting until you get the letter in the mail to go and get yourself a breast screen [or] waiting to feel a lump in your breast before you take action… everyone should be having regular checks regardless,” she said.
“Having chemo is far more inconvenient than having a breast exam. Telling your friends and family and children you have cancer is … far scarier than having a health check.”
Sourced By: ABC News