Newham’s Rachel Flowers is proof that early detection can save your life

Rachel Flowers believes early detection and treatment can save lives

Rachel Flowers believes early detection and treatment can save lives - Credit: Archant

Director of Pubic Health says regular checks helped save her life.

Last December she found a lump in her breast after checking herself regularly for years.

She said: “When I found the lump I knew exactly what to do.” She wasted no time and went straight to her GP.

Her GP examined her breast, found the lump and referred her to the Breast Centre at Bart’s Hospital. Rachel said: “At the Breast Centre I was logged in and put on a gown. I talked through the signs and symptoms with a consultant and went for a mammogram. Then I had an ultrasound.

“All the examinations were conducted with dignity and respect. At no stage did I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. I was treated and got the all clear within an hour and a half of arrival. It was a tremendous relief.”

She encourages women to carry out regular checks of their breasts and get screened. That did not lessen the shock of her own discovery. She said: “I know all the statistics. I know that the majority of lumps are perfectly harmless and that breast cancer is very treatable, but the reality of finding a lump, something that should not be there, is not a nice feeling. It plays on your mind.”

There are many women who find lumps and don’t do anything about it because they are too scared.

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Rachel said: “I can understand their fear, but my message to all women is if you find a lump or anything unusual about your breast go to your doctor and get it checked out.”

With breast lumps the NHS has a target of seeing and treating all women aged over 50 within two weeks.

Rachel said: “From start to finish the whole process, from seeing my GP to being discharged, lasted less than 12 days.”

She is keen to talk about her experience to remove the stigma of talking about breasts and breast lumps and, more importantly to encourage others to do something if they find one. She said: “Yes, it is a little worrying. But it’s best to deal with these things head on. The sooner you identify the problem, the sooner it can be treated. Early treatment is better for any condition. As soon as you find a breast lump, just go to your GP and let them check it.”

She said: “I think the message is the importance of breast awareness. Angelina Jolie is to be applauded for highlighting her choice re dealing with a gene fault that significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Most women aware of several female close relatives having breast cancer should be tested for this gene. For the rest of us its important we are breast aware. Most lumps- like the one I had recently and the one I had at 17 are not cancer . Cancer or not early detection of lumps can lead to earlier treatment.”