Cessnock's Helen Clarke urges local women to get regular mammograms

SURVIVOR: Cessnock's Helen Clarke says regular mammograms are vital in the early detection of breast cancer.
SURVIVOR: Cessnock's Helen Clarke says regular mammograms are vital in the early detection of breast cancer.

Helen Clarke certainly knows the importance of regular mammograms.

In February this year, the Cessnock woman was diagnosed with breast cancer after a visit to the BreastScreen van in Cessnock.

Mrs Clarke, who had always been vigilant about her mammograms said that despite a family history of breast cancer she thought it could never happen to her,

“I was doing regular mammograms, I was being good because I have a lot of family history with breast cancer – my mum had it and my sister died on her second go at it which was only last year and my daughter actually works with BreastScreen so I was fairly vigilant but never thought it could happen to me. 

“I was wrong.”

Mrs Clarke added that she was completely oblivious to her condition, and had it not been for a mammogram, her story may’ve played out a lot differently.

“I had no symptoms – nothing. i felt great. I went for my mammogram and I got a call back two days later and within the fortnight I was having biopsies.”

Thankfully, due to early detection, Mrs Clarke said she has had her surgery, chemo and radiation treatment and will have her next check-up in February.

“I’m doing great now because it was caught early,” she said. “I couldn’t feel a lump and I checked – even when they told me where it was. 

“That’s why regular mammograms are so important, because you just don’t know."

“We’re all busy but there’s a stage when you’ve just got to stop and do it –  we all stop and have our flu shots we need to stop and have our mammograms.”

Mrs Clarke’s call comes after data released by the Cancer Institute NSW showed that there are as many as 18 women in the Cessnock LGA who have undiagnosed breast cancer.

The data also showed that almost 3000 women, aged between 50 and 74, in the area are either overdue for a mammogram or have never had one.

BreastScreen NSW Hunter New England manager Rebecca Delaporte said that she hoped the disturbing data encouraged more women to take action.

“Each year 950 women in NSW die from breast cancer and our data shows close to 3,000 women locally are not attending their recommended two-yearly mammograms. Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer before it can be seen or felt,” she said. 

To book your mammogram with BreastScreen NSW, phone 13 20 50. The BreastScreen NSW van is currently at Kurri Kurri Bowling Club (3 Tarro Street, Kurri Kurri) until Friday 30 November.

For more information, visit breastscreen.nsw.gov.au