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Mammography technologist survived cancer twice due to regular mammograms

YIMC - Mammograms

Wendy Nicholson, a mammography technologist at The Ottawa Hospital, was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago after a routine mammogram pointed out the need for follow-up tests.

The irony hasn’t escaped her – a mammography technologist who developed breast cancer. Fortunately, Wendy Nicholson practised what she preached – her cancer was caught early and treated because she had regular mammograms starting at age 40.

“It was seen on the mammogram as a few tiny white specks,” Nicholson recalled. “I never would have felt this until it had got much larger and formed a lump.”

A mammogram is a special X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors can detect any changes that have occurred, even those too small for the average person to feel or see.

Nicholson has worked in the diagnostic imaging field for over 40 years and has specialized in breast imaging for the past 20 years, performing mammograms, breast ultrasounds and breast biopsies at The Ottawa Hospital in the Women’s Breast Health Centre and the Ontario Breast Screening Centre on Carling Avenue.

“My professional knowledge did help me decide to have my lymph nodes removed and a mastectomy of my right breast,” she explained. “It was important to me to have peace of mind that all the cancer was removed – that’s why I had the mastectomy. My type of cancer was not aggressive but was spread around the breast.”

She credits regular follow-up mammograms and biopsies for identifying other cancers in her remaining breast, which was also removed.

“They saved my life, twice,” she said. “Regular screening is so important. You can’t just come and have one mammogram. It’s the repeated, regular screening that allows radiologists to compare and see what has changed.”

The advanced diagnostic tests available today, such as ultrasound, MRI and tomosynthesis, are not only finding cancers early but also allowing for less-extensive treatments.

“I want to tell my story to get this point across to women: ‘Come on! You’ve got to come out and get screened!’” she said. “I survived cancer twice due to regular follow-up screening and mammograms. I now have seven grandchildren and I’m here to love them.”

Cancer Care Ontario and The Ottawa Hospital’s Cancer Program encourage women aged 50 or older to take five minutes right now to book a free mammogram. Call the local Ontario Breast Screening Program at 613-728-0777 or call 1-800-668-9304.

“My experience with my own cancer allows me to provide my clients a personal perspective about breast cancer and its prevention,” she said. “It’s important to know your own breasts and watch for any changes, both by touch and visually. Any change is worth a discussion with your doctor.”


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