Leeds breast cancer survivor reminds local people to be breast aware

A local breast cancer survivor is backing NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (1 to 31 October) in an effort to get people to notice any unusual changes in their breasts.

Kathryn Mitchell a 45 year old mum of two from Pudsey is using her own experience of breast cancer to get people to spot the signs of breast cancer. She is encouraging local people to know the symptoms of breast cancer and to seek early advice from their GP if they notice unusual changes.

Breast Cancer Care, a national breast cancer support charity, has said around 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year; from this figure about 350 are men. The latest annual figures for Leeds show that 590 people were diagnoses with breast cancer. A Leeds woman, who has battled back from a cancer diagnosis and treatment, is lending her support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Kathryn Mitchell MAINKathryn Mitchell, breast cancer survivor, said: “If you notice anything unusual about your breast I urge you to go and see your GP as soon as you can. Speaking from my own personal experience I had put off seeing a GP when I found a lump on my breast, it’s only when my friend encouraged me to go and see my GP that I booked an appointment.

“I was lucky enough to be classed as cancer free after seven months of going through various treatments at St James’s Hospital. But if I had left it any longer and not taken on my friend’s advice to go and see my GP I may not have been lucky enough.”

Dr Gordon, GP at Burton Croft Surgery and Clinical Chair at NHS Leeds West CCG said: “It’s important that you check your breasts regularly and look out for any unusual changes, the earlier breast cancer is found, the easier it is to treat. Early diagnosis and treatment improves the chances of survivorship.

“Women who are aged 50 to 70 and registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast screening every three years. If you have had your invitation I would encourage you to take it up. However, if you notice any of the symptoms of breast cancer, don’t wait for your screening, visit your GP. For those who are not eligible for the screening programme it is important that you stay breast aware and let your GP know if you notice any unusual changes in your breasts.”

Women need to be aware of the following symptoms of breast cancer:

  • A lump or thickening in an area of the breast
  • A change in the size, shape or feel of a breast
  • Dimpling of the skin
  • A change in the shape of your nipple, particularly if it turns in, sinks into the breast, or has an irregular shape
  • A blood stained discharge from the nipple
  • A rash on a nipple or surrounding area
  • A swelling or lump in your armpit

Men will have the following symptoms of breast cancer:

  • A lump, often painless. This is the most common symptom. It’s usually near the centre, close to the nipple, because most of the breast tissue in men is beneath the nipple. But lumps can also occur away from the nipple
  • Nipple discharge, often blood-stained
  • A tender or drawn in (inverted) nipple
  • Ulceration or swelling of the chest area

According to Breast Cancer Care, after gender (being female), age is the strongest risk factor for developing breast cancer, the older the person, the higher the risk. Around 81% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. More details can be found on the charity’s website: www.breastcancercare.org.uk

Local charity, The Haven, offers breast cancer support which includes one-to-one sessions, exercise classes, courses and drop-in sessions. For further information visit www.thehaven.org.uk or call 0113 2847829.


Interviews with local case Leeds study, Kathryn Mitchell available on request

Local case study – Kathryn Mitchell from Pudsey

Kathryn, 45 was diagnosed with breast cancer at 43 years old. She tells us the difficulties she encountered whilst receiving treatment for breast cancer and what kept her going throughout her treatment.

Kathryn, 45 says: “I went on holiday with my two boys in August 2013, we were playing with the beach ball in the pool when the ball hit my breast and it really hurt, when I touched my breast I thought I felt a lump but I ignored it as I thought it would be nothing.  When I came back from the holiday, I was sat on the sofa with my dog and she jumped on me and again my breast really hurt, I touched my breast thinking I could feel a lump but I thought I was imagining it. I mentioned it to my friend and she felt my breast saying it’s definitely a lump and that I should see my GP.

“I went to see my GP fully believing that she would say it’s nothing and he would send me away. However, she said there’s definitely a lump there and I’ll need to go to the breast clinic (St James’s Hospital) to be assessed.

“I went back a week later with my best friend and saw the consultant, that’s when he broke the news to me and told me the results came back positive, I had breast cancer. It felt like I had been hit by a truck, I buried my face into my best friends lap thinking if I do that it might all just go away. At that moment in time it felt like the room was spinning and I’m glad I had my friend there because she was making all the notes for me. The consultant explained that where the lump was they wouldn’t need to remove the breast, they would do a lumpectomy (surgery to remove the tumour and some surrounding tissue) and take lymph nodes from under my armpit as well to see if the cancer had spread.

“Telling my family that I had breast cancer was the hardest part, especially my two boys. My mum and dad were absolutely devastated they couldn’t believe it as there was no family history of cancer.

“After my surgery, which was on 21 December 2013, I went back for my results on 8 January 2014 and I was told that the cancer had not spread which was fantastic news for me.

“My first chemo took place on 21 January for 18 weeks, I felt horrible after I had my first one, and I was throwing up and didn’t feel well at all. When I lost all my hair it was apparent what was happening to me. I was scared of seeing people as I didn’t know what their reaction would be. I thought to myself the cancer has reduced me to nothing but I’m not going to let it put me down. I went for a makeover and decided not wear any hats when I went outside, as the important thing was that I was still here.

“My chemotherapy nurse recommended me to go to the Haven in Leeds which is a breast cancer support centre. I visited them and they developed a programme for me to help me through my treatment. I made friends at the Haven, speaking to women who were in the same position as me which was hugely comforting.

“When my chemo had finished I then had to do three weeks of radiotherapy, which I found isolating because you’re in the room on your own it’s not like going for a chemo where your surrounded with people and you can have a chat or a cup of tea. I felt vulnerable and exposed but the staff at St James’s Hospital were absolutely fabulous, they were so comforting and caring.

“I don’t think I would have been able to go through my treatment without the support of my family, friends, staff at St James’s Hospital and The Haven, a huge thank you to them. My life has now gone back to normal and I’m back at work and enjoying life.”

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Issued by the communications team at NHS Leeds West CCG. You can contact the team on 0113 84 35528 or 0113 84 35470. Alternatively please email us: commsleedswestccg@nhs.net.