A woman was shocked to discover a lump she squeezed thinking it was a spot was actually a fast growing cancerous tumour.
Siobhan Harrison, 24, from New Tredegar in the Rhymney Valley in South Wales, was devastated when tests revealed she had stage two triple negative breast cancer.
The barista originally spotted the lump, above her left breast, while getting dressed in December 2020, but after trying to pop it she noticed it became bruised, which she suspected was because she had aggravated it.
“It was clearly visible quite high up on my chest, so I thought it was just a pimple," she explains. "I tried to pop it but that just made it bruise.
“I kept an eye on it for a while and noticed it getting bigger, which I thought was because I’d aggravated it.
“But it started to worry me, so I booked a doctor’s appointment.”
At her appointment, Harrison was referred for further tests but was told there was a nine-month waiting list, so she decided to go private and paid £200 for an ultrasound.
"Medics said they couldn’t tell what it was, but thought it might be cancerous and advised I would need a biopsy to find out,” she continues.
With her lump suspected as cancer, Harrison was considered a high priority and went in for her biopsy on the NHS on June 22, 2021.
“When I got the results, I half expected it to be a cyst or something benign," she says. "Even though I was concerned about it, I still didn’t expect it to be anything too bad.”
But to Harrison's shock, she was diagnosed with stage two triple negative breast cancer.
“I was so upset," she adds. "It was fast growing, and the lump was now over 2cm in size. Doctors scheduled me in for surgery the following week, it all happened very fast.”
In July, Harrison had a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous mass in her left breast.
“As I recovered from the op, my consultant informed me that the next step would be chemotherapy, but said there was a chance it could affect my fertility,” she says.
“So, before I started the treatment, I had egg retrieval in case I became infertile after the chemo.”
In August, Harrison started chemotherapy, which she describes as gruelling.
“I found it very hard," she adds. "After the first round, I started to lose my hair and the treatment just wiped me out. I was so poorly.”
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Even though she was told she would lose her hair, Harrison says she didn't expect it to affect her as much as it did.
"I bought a wig to help me feel a bit more like myself," she says.
“My doctor also decided to change my treatment slightly, so I had chemo more frequently in lower doses and that helped me a lot.
“I had 12 rounds of chemo before stopping in December 2021. Then, in the New Year, I had two weeks of radiotherapy.”
While Harrison was technically considered cancer free after the surgery, the further treatment was preventative as she was at high risk of her cancer returning.
“The treatment did its job and I got the all-clear in spring this year," she adds. "Since then, I’ve been on a trial which screens my blood every few weeks to check for cancer cells. So far, everything has come back clear.
“As difficult as it was, I’m so thankful to now be on the other side of treatment.
“All the NHS staff who treated me were so supportive and helpful, I’m very thankful to them too.”
Harrison will need to go for annual check-ups to make sure the cancer does not return and is now keen to raise awareness of breast cancer in young people.
“I never thought that I could be diagnosed with cancer so young, it was such a shock to me and my family,” she explains.
“I want to get the word out that young women need to be checking their breasts for lumps and must notify their doctor if there are any changes, as it could be lifesaving.
“I’m unlucky to have got cancer but, in a way, I am also lucky that my lump was clearly visible and I was able to get a private scan quickly.
"I dread to think what could have happened if it had gone undetected.”
Despite feeling lucky to be cancer-free, Harrison does still worry it may return.
“I had a scare just last week when I thought I’d found another lump and went to get it checked out. Thankfully, it was nothing to worry about, but it has made me realise that the fear will always be with me.”
“If I can encourage other people to check for lumps then I’ve achieved my goal. I just don’t want other people going through the same ordeal as I have been through.”
The Teenage Cancer Trust says that while cancer is far less likely to affect young people than older adults, when it does it can have a devastating impact.
"Being able to spot potential warning signs that could lead to an earlier diagnosis really can make a difference," a spokesperson for the charity explains.
“There is a concerningly low awareness of the most common warning signs of cancer in the 18-24 age range, and this could be one of the reasons it takes longer for young people to be diagnosed with cancer than older adults."
The Teenage Cancer Trust advises listening to your body and if you feel that something isn't right seek medical help.
“It probably isn’t cancer, but it’s always best to check, so book an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns.”
To learn more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and how to check for it, visit www.preventbreastcancer.org.uk
Additional reporting PA Real Life.