Happily married mother to an adolescent daughter, Andrea, 51, Melbourne, leads a healthy lifestyle, playing netball, coaching basketball, and dragon boat racing with 20 fellow team paddlers. Her lifestyle nowadays however, is a far cry from 12 years ago, when she was living in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and four year old daughter, when she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.
Prior to her diagnosis, Andrea had noticed a discharge of yellow fluid from her right nipple, but had not identified a breast lump.
Without hesitation, she visited her local GP to discuss her discharge and was subsequently referred for an ultrasound and a mammogram, which led to her breast cancer diagnosis.
This is Andrea’s story.
“After undergoing various tests, I was informed there were problems in both of my breasts,” said Andrea.
“I received a referral for another ultrasound and mammogram, which was a precursor to surgical intervention in Canada.”
Andrea immediately commenced treatment following her diagnosis of breast cancer, which entailed a range of therapies, including mastectomy of both breasts and chemotherapy.
“The first step was a bilateral mastectomy. Doctors discovered Andrea had two tumours in each of her breasts, four in total, close to her chest wall. Her post-surgery test results showed that she had stage two breast cancer, but that the cancer had been contained. This was followed by AC chemotherapy three months later.
“The Doctors didn’t allow me to undergo radiotherapy because I had previously developed melanomas,” said Andrea.
“The tumours were highly sensitive to oestrogen, so both an oophorectomy and hysterectomy were recommended as best practice in Toronto, at the time.
“I had an oophorectomy and hysterectomy in 2004. Two years later [in 2006], I had a bilateral breast reconstruction with implants,” Andrea said.
“I was also placed on hormone treatment, an aromatase inhibitor, for five years, from mid-2005 to 2010.”
Andrea’s diagnosis spurred her to investigate her family history of breast cancer.
“It’s possible that my maternal grandmother died from breast cancer secondaries three months after I was born. My mother also had some breast lumps removed,” Andrea said.
Since beating breast cancer 12 years ago, Andrea maintains an active, healthy lifestyle and ensures she visits her GP on an annual basis for a blood test and a check-up.
“I’ve only been diagnosed with breast cancer on one occasion and I stopped taking hormone treatment in mid-2010. But I’m conscious the breast cancer can return,” said Andrea.
Andrea is an advocate for For Benefit Medicines – Australia’s first for-benefit pharmaceutical company whose sole purpose is to distribute 100 per cent of profits to local patient support and medical research organisations.
“I am 100 per cent in favour of For Benefit Medicines. During my breast cancer experience in North America, this type of concept was not available to the best of my knowledge.
“Had the FBM treatments been available when I was undergoing treatment, and were suitable to my needs, I would have happily chosen an FBM product,” Andrea said.
“I would like to see more pharmaceutical companies contributing towards patient support and medical research.”