As Australia fought to stave off its growing COVID-19 caseload in July, Melissa Rogers found herself facing a health crisis of her own.
The NSW woman was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer after discovering a 5cm lump in her left breast while stretching.
It was on Melissa's 36th birthday that her doctor delivered the news.
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"The word cancer — you hear it all the time, right? It's just a word. It's so common," she said. "But when it's attached to something to do with you...
"I don't know if you've ever had an almost out-of-body experience. You're thinking, 'Did she just say that? Is this a weird dream?'".
Triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of the disease that represents roughly 15 per cent of diagnoses.
Melissa is undergoing chemotherapy and is scheduled for surgery in January. She's been guided through the process by her clinicians and McGrath Breast Care Nurses, including Natalie Carnovale.
Speaking to Mamamia to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both Melissa and Natalie are eager to remind women that breast awareness and self-examination is crucial. Particularly this year.
Breast cancer testing and detection rates have taken a hit during COVID-19, courtesy of public health restrictions and concerns about infection.
According to the Cancer Council, there was a 37 per cent drop in breast cancer reports in Victoria alone during April and May.
And a recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that the national breast cancer screening program, BreastScreen Australia, performed 145,000 fewer mammograms in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2018.
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"That will probably play out in the future with a lot more advanced diagnoses, because people have not been screened at all and something has been missed," Natalie said.
Part of that decline in screening was unavoidable.
BreastScreen services were suspended nationwide from March 25 and to early May in order reduce the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19 infections).