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You may have seen in the news that Sarah Harding, who has secondary breast cancer, has written about dismissing a change in her boobs. Having noticed pain in one of her breasts, Sarah put off seeing a doctor. Eventually, she decided to get her breast pain checked out. She explained “One day I woke up realising that I’d been in denial. Yes, there was a lockdown, yes, there was a pandemic, but it was almost as if I’d been using that as an excuse not to face up to the fact that something was very wrong.”

We are saddened by Sarah’s diagnosis and know the  devastating impact an advanced breast cancer diagnosis can have on the person diagnosed and their loved ones, and our thoughts are with Sarah and her friends and family as they navigate her treatment. Unfortunately, Sarah’s experience is still all too common. The “denial” Sarah felt about her breast pain is something we know a lot of young people experience.

Many of you tell us you are worried about wasting your doctors time, or have put off making a GP appointment because of anxiety about what they might discover. It is natural to feel some nervousness, but we want to reassure you that in the majority of cases, a change to your chest won’t be cancer. As Sarah’s story demonstrates, what’s really important is getting checked out. In the instances where a change is a symptom of breast cancer, early detection is critical. Below are the symptoms to be aware of, and guidance on easing your nerves and preparing for a doctors appointment.

Here are some things you can do before a checkup to ease your anxiety. 

  • You may want to see a doctor of a specific gender to make you feel more comfortable. You can request this when booking your appointment.
  • If you would feel more comfortable with another person in the room, you can request a chaperone of a certain gender from your surgery. In non-covid times you can bring a loved one with you to your appointment.
  • You might find it helpful to write down any questions or concerns you have in advance to bring with you to your appointment. Make note of your specific concerns and how long you have had them. If you have periods, the doctor may ask you when your last period started, so make a note of this date, if you can remember.
  • Be prepared that your doctor may need to examine you. We suggest wearing separate tops and bottoms to make this easier.
  • You might feel embarrassed, but try to remember, your doctor has almost definitely seen it all before.

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