This is my story
My name is Dyna Eldaief and I am considered high risk for breast cancer due to my family history
While at University I heard about Mammograms being available free for women over 50. One day I decided to ask my mother if she ever had a mammogram and after she said she hadn’t I told her she should go and get one. Nothing more was spoken about it until several weeks later when my parents asked my siblings and I to a family meeting – something serious no doubt but Breast cancer I didn’t expect.
My mother’s first breast cancer was found in its early stages and with chemo and radio therapy she was in remission. Seven years later in one of her routine screenings a second breast cancer in the other breast (a second primary) was detected, however due to its position the cancer was found in a late stage. She underwent treatment but passed away almost exactly 6 months after that diagnosis. During her time in remission my mother had a call from her sister overseas and after the call I found out that a cousin had breast cancer. I asked if anyone else had breast cancer on her side of the family and she said her sister had it in the past too. With that information I found an intense desire to find out more about Breast cancer and see if perhaps there was a genetic component. That phone call and my mother’s diagnosis started a personal interest in breast cancer. Genetic predisposition, detection, monitoring, research and treatments.
I have been in the high risk category for breast cancer for almost 10 years and have seen changes in the management of women over that time. When MRI was introduced to high risk women as part of cancer screening I was thrilled. A far more accurate detector than ultrasound and physical breast exams. I am seen by the Familial Cancer Centre at the Royal Melbourne Hospital where I have annual screening tests including Mammogram, MRI, Ultrasound and physical examinations.
I am currently booking in my appointments for a Mammogram and breast MRI (Medical Resonance Imaging) for this year. I will then have a breast exam and the results on my tests in an appointment with a breast surgeon. I have also been asked to consider taking Tamoxifen (hormone therapy currently used to treat patients that have already had breast cancer) as a preventative measure and I am researching surgical options (including removal of my ovaries or a double Mastectomy) as well, now that my youngest baby is no longer breast feeding.
Many women may well be aware of Mammograms and breast exams but how the different types of breast cancer affects survival rates, what cancer looks like, how a breast MRI, hormone therapy or surgery is performed may help bring some understanding and awareness to a generally private experience. It may also help some women understand and make decisions on treatment options for themselves or family members. I myself have been surprised to find that mastectomies are now available in a range of options from total breast removal (breast tissue, skin, nipple and areola) to removing all but the skin and even now removing the tissue but leaving all else. I would like to find out more about these options and if I were to have the surgery find out what the results of a reconstruction look like or talk to people about their experiences.
I believe that information is vital in making an informed decision; however appointments with genetic councilors, doctors and breast surgeons can be daunting even to someone such as myself who has familiarity with the medical field. My sister struggled to understand the information presented to her during these appointments and I found myself explaining and reassuring her just as I had my mother many times before her. Being someone who has worked professionally in cancer detection and with an understanding of cancer types and appearance as well as personally experiencing cancer monitoring I have an understanding from both perspectives.
My interest has led me to exploring and researching cancer prevention and treatment options both in the medical/surgical realm as well as through diet / lifestyle. This unique position gives me a feeling of control when it comes to dealing with breast cancer and it is my hope to be able to share my knowledge in a practical and visual way to raise awareness of current medical approaches and ultimately to help other women feel empowered when it comes to dealing with breast cancer.