To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, Action Cancer have launched their new fundraising campaign, ‘Breast Friends’, in partnership with Northern Ireland based online car insurance provider are empowering women across the country to raise funds for the unique breast screening service.

Gwen Egerton (74) from Derryvore availed of the breast screening service provided by Action Cancer which she believes “saved her life”.

“I knew I was due to have a mammogram done but like all these things we tend to put it off and I got lazy and hadn’t got round to making an appointment,” said Gwen. It was only when a newsletter from South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), of which Gwen is a member, came through her door and advertised that the Action Cancer ‘Big Bus’ was coming to Lisnaskea did Gwen make an appointment. “It was very handy for me. I was delighted,” said Gwen, explaining that SEFF invited Action Cancer to come to Lisnaskea and paid for the bus.

Gwen made an appointment to go for a screening in February 2018.

“It was very straightforward and easy to make the appointment and it took no time on the bus. Everyone was very helpful and friendly,” she said.

The next week Gwen received a letter from Action Cancer to say that she was being referred to Altnagelvin Hospital for further investigations.

“I didn’t really panic at this stage as I just thought this was something routine they needed to do.

“At the hospital they carried out further investigations. Following these tests and examinations I was told I had breast cancer but that it was very small and had been detected early,” Gwen explained.

“From the onset I had a very positive outlook and thought, ‘well this has been detected early, I have a good chance’ and if it had not been for that appointment on the bus things could have been very different,” she added.

After seeing her consultant on a Friday, Gwen was told she could have surgery on the following Wednesday. She was booked into Altnagelvin, where she had a lumpectomy and some of her lymph nodes removed.

“Thankfully the surgery was a success and I was told I didn’t need chemo which was my worry but I did need 15 sessions of radiotherapy,” shared Gwen.

She continued: “Again, I was very positive about this and almost treated it like I was having a break away.”

Although Gwen was very tired after the radiotherapy and was sore and raw in the area where she received it, she felt it was a “small price to pay”.

“My surgeon was very positive and as far as I was concerned from this point on I was cancer free which was a blessing. As far as I am concerned Action Cancer’s screening and early detection saved my life. If that had been left to grow it would have been a very different story,” said Gwen.

Encouraging all ladies in the 70 plus age bracket to go and have their mammogram done, Gwen added: “It is quick and painless and takes so little time and it could save your life like it did mine.

In fact, I have since paid for the bus to come back to the area in the hope that it will help others the way it helped me.”

“I am back to being fit and active. I live a happy and full life thanks to Action Cancer,” concluded Gwen.

All mammograms (breast screening) provided by Action Cancer are free to the women being screened but each costs the charity approximately £80. The charity was therefore delighted when agreed that for every £1 raised by the general public through ‘Breast Friends’ events it would donate £1 to a total value of £90,000 over the next three years.

These total funds of £180,000 will allow Action Cancer to provide free of charge 2,250 breast screening appointments for local women, saving approximately 15 lives and providing peace of mind to over two thousand women.

Last year Action Cancer invested £500,000 in the latest breast screening equipment, becoming the first and only breast screening unit in the UK to use 3D breast imaging. A year on the charity are delighted this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to be able to report some quite incredible results.

Joanna Currie, Consultant Radiographer, revealed: “Using the latest digital 3D mammography to screen women aged 40 to 49 has proven invaluable.

“With the ability to scan through the breast and see between overlapping structures and tissue, we have been able to reduce the number of women called back for further investigation by almost 50 per cent and have increased the number of small invasive cancers detected in younger women.

“We are truly delighted with these results a year on and there is no doubt that early detection saves lives and makes a huge difference,” she added.

Action Cancer, along with local online insurance provider, are asking everyone across Northern Ireland to gather their ‘Breast Friends’ and save lives by raising funds for Action Cancer’s unique breast screening service.