People urged not to ignore early signs of breast cancer during COVID-19
A Wrexham woman recovering from breast cancer surgery is urging people not to put off contacting their GP during the COVID pandemic.
Lindsay Adams found a lump in her breast towards the end of October 2020 – during the time a national ‘fire-break’ was introduced in Wales.
The 51-year-old, who works in IT, immediately called her GP and was offered an appointment on the same day. She was then referred to Wrexham Maelor Hospital for a series of diagnostics tests where specialists confirmed the presence of a tumour.
She said: “I was seen by a GP within three hours of finding a lump, it was incredibly quick.
“I was later seen at the Shooting Star Unit at Wrexham for further tests where it was confirmed I had breast cancer.
“It was a really scary time but I felt reassured as things seemed to be happening at a fast pace and my surgery was booked in during early January.”
However, in January 2021, the Health Board made the difficult decision to postpone the majority of planned surgery at Wrexham Maelor, due to the rise in COVID-19 patients being admitted into the hospital.
Instead, Lindsay was offered her surgery at Ysbyty Gwynedd with Breast Surgeon, Mr Richard Cochrane, who is normally based at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
“At the time when I was told that planned surgery was postponed at the Maelor I did begin to worry, I had been isolating since Christmas Day and thought I may not have my operation anymore.
“I completely understood the pressure the Maelor was under and knew how upsetting it was for the Surgical Manager to have to ring me to tell me the operation won’t be going ahead.
“Although I couldn’t have it in my local hospital, I was offered to go to Ysbyty Gwynedd and even though it was a long drive I knew I had to have this operation.
“My first operation was 20 January to remove the lump, which went well and I got to go home on the same day.
“I had my second operation on 9 February, this was also a success and I’m really grateful for the surgery I have had.
“Despite the challenges our NHS is facing they are doing the best they can to ensure people like myself are still getting the treatment they need, it’s a credit to both hospitals that they are able to do this under the pressures they both face,” added Lindsay.
Consultant Breast Surgeon, Richard Cochrane, said he feels privileged to be able to continue to provide life-saving surgery for his patients at Ysbyty Gwynedd.
He said: “The operational teams at both hospitals, as well as the Theatre and Anaesthetic staff in Ysbyty Gwynedd have helped me to get a lot of Wrexham patients back on schedule.
“If my patients are fit and mobile and willing to travel I can give them a timely date for surgery when I diagnose their cancer.
“They have a plan and that goes a long way towards allowing them to cope with the stresses of their diagnosis and treatment.
“Untreated breast cancer spreads from the primary to secondary in the lymph nodes and eventually to incurable spread to the rest of the body.
“Until you remove the cancer and nodes you do not know what the patient’s prognosis and treatments require.
“Once we remove the cancer the remaining treatment is more precautionary and there is less uncertainty and need for haste.
“Each patient’s journey is different but the ability to operate in a timely and safe manner is important for the majority of patients so we are really grateful to Ysbyty Gwynedd to allow us to use their theatres to carry out these operations.”
Rhian Hulse, Directorate Deputy General Manager for Planned Care at Ysbyty Gwynedd, said the teams at Ysbyty Gwynedd and Wrexham Maelor Hospital have worked closely together to ensure they can continue to deliver potentially lifesaving surgery for patients across both hospital sites.
She said: “Despite considerable challenges as a consequence of Covid-19, clinical and operational teams have focused on providing priority care and treatment to those who need it urgently which includes elective urgent suspected cancer treatment.
“It is our privilege to welcome patients and colleagues from Wrexham Maelor Hospital and our multidisciplinary teams continue to work closely together with a commitment to provide urgent essential treatment to patients across North Wales for as long as it is safe to do so.”
Lindsay, who is now moving onto her next stage of treatment, hopes her story will encourage others to contact their GP if they are worried about their symptoms.
She said: “It is a really worrying time but I hope by sharing my story it shows the hospitals are still prioritising people like myself.
“No one should ignore any changes in their body or any worrying symptoms due to the pandemic, contact your GP and get it checked out, it may be nothing to worry about it but it is always best to check.
“I’ve had incredibly care over the last few months and I’d like to thank the teams at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Ysbyty Gwynedd for all they’ve done for me.”
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