Dawn’s story – Early detection saved my life

Dawn Ross, an Arrernte woman from Alice Springs, shares her story of participating in the BreastScreen Australia Program.


Hi my name is Dawn Ross. I’m an Arrernte woman from Alice Springs. Born and bred. My mother’s from the west, she’s a western Arrernte woman and my father’s an eastern Arrernte man.

I’m married and I’ve got 4 children, 1 son and 3 daughters and I’ve got 4 grandchildren. 2 girls and 2 boys.

I work at Bachelor Institute in Alice Springs. I deliver the family wellbeing program. I’ve been doing it since 2009.

I was diagnosed in 1997. My daughter was sick and I was taking her to the woman’s centre to get checked. And at that time they had a breast screening, the National Breast Screening people were there. And they come out and ask me if I would like to get checked, you know have a breast screen, mammogram done. I said ‘why not’. So I went and had one done. Yeah and that’s how I was diagnosed. All by accident.

I was at work one day and one of the women from Alukra came and saw me and said ‘we need you to come back to have another mammogram’.

And we went into the National Breast Screening centre in Alice Springs in the mall and we all had turns going through and getting tested again.

The next day I went in and saw the doctor at Alukra and she sat me down and she told me that the results had come back and that it was cancer, that it was malignant. It still didn’t hit me. I sat with her for a while and said ‘so what now, what do we do now?’. And she’s look at me, ‘do you realise that you have breast cancer?’. And I broke down then, and I started crying, she was really good, she calmed me right down.

But it took me a while, you know, for it to sink in.

It has been 14 or 15 years now. So I’ve been going really good.

Breast screening is really important even when you are feeling well because sometimes you can’t feel it, I was really feeling healthy. I didn’t feel sick. But I’m so glad that I was caught that time of the breast screening and having that mammogram.

It’s just so important to have that breast screen done. Because it affects everybody, it affects your children, your grandchildren, your partner, all your family really. It’s not just you, it’s the whole community that is affected by breast cancer.

If mine wasn't caught earlier, when it was, I probably wouldn’t be here speaking to you now. And I wouldn’t have my beautiful granddaughter and grandchildren to play with. So it’s really really important to have your breasts checked.

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Dawn didn’t feel sick and she didn’t feel a lump. She hadn’t planned to have a breast screen, but while taking her to a daughter to the women’s centre happened to drop in and have a mammogram. She wasn’t expecting to be diagnosed with breast cancer but was glad that the early detection allowed treatment to be successful. Dawn is an advocate for the Breast Screening Program and encourages women to have their breasts checked.

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