“I didn’t know that a nipple change could be a sign of breast cancer. The day I saw #KNOWYOURLEMONS, my life-changing journey started.”
—Sharon, Breast Cancer Survivor, England
Sharon, age 50, works as a Contact Officer for the Police Force in Hull, UK. She was diagnosed with Breast Cancer two years ago, after seeing the 12 Signs of Breast Cancer image at a Cancer Champions class hosted by the NHS.
Here is her early detection story:
“In December 2018 I noticed a slight change to my breast while having a shower. There were no lumps, but my nipple looked slightly different. I didn’t really think anything of it, until in March 2019 we were invited to attend a Cancer Champion Training class at my work, provided by the NHS. It was a course about different cancers and what to look out for. The reason I wanted to attend was that a few of my family members were affected by the disease—so the topic is very close to my heart!
We went through the different cancers and eventually came to breast cancer. They talked about changes in the breast, and how it can be more than just a lump. Then the Know Your Lemons poster came out.
As the poster was passed around, I glanced down and realised that I had one of the symptoms on that poster!
I didn’t think too much about it and went back to work that afternoon. However, that poster really stuck with me and I kept thinking, ‘I need to get checked, I REALLY need to get checked!’
After the weekend I went to my GP, who instantly referred me to a breast unit and within two weeks I was seen by a breast consultant. The first consultant was quite dismissive towards me. She examined me and then said, ‘There’s nothing really wrong with you.’
But I insisted and said, ‘But this is my body. I know it’s not right! This is why I’ve come to you.’
The consultant reluctantly referred me for a mammogram and ultrasound that day ‘just to be on the safe side’. A few hours later, I was called into a room where a doctor showed me my scans and said, ‘You have two tumors in your breast and we need to take a biopsy today.’
I was not expecting that.
The lumps were very deep-seated, I would never have found them on my own. They were both over 1cm in size, in quite close proximity to each other. Two weeks later I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. During the surgery it was found that it had also spread to the lymph nodes.”
Sharon went on to have mammoplasty, had some lymph nodes removed, underwent chemo, and radiotherapy. She finished her treatment in February 2020 and in July 2020 got the “all clear” with her latest mammogram.
“I’m a massive supporter of the Know Your Lemons campaign. That image is so important. The day I saw that poster, my life-changing journey started. That’s how powerful it is.
Had I waited for screening–which would have been at least a year later–I wonder how large my lumps would have grown…all because I didn’t know that a change in my nipple could be a sign of breast cancer.
I wonder how many people have walked out of the clinic because they have not been listened to…and something was actually wrong, but they didn’t know how to advocate for themselves? I remember how worried I was to even bring the symptom to the attention of my doctor. I thought she’d think, “Oh, here we go, another hypochondriac. She’s seen a poster and now she thinks she’s got cancer.”
I’m glad I didn’t give up until I got the answers I needed.
The problem is that we are mostly taught about lumps when it comes to breast cancer. They often use a general message like ‘if you notice changes’, but they don’t tell you which changes to look out for.
But the #KnowYourLemons poster encompasses everything you need to be looking for!”
Want to learn what Sharon knows? See the 12 symptoms of breast cancer and get guidance on what to do if you notice a change with our free KNOW YOUR LEMONS APP.
Help more women in the future to tell their early detection story. If you are interested in supporting our campaign, there are a number of ways to get involved: