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Stephanie got in touch with CoppaFeel! in February 2020, after she used our Boob Bot to check herself, and noticed a change in her one of her breasts. We spoke to her about getting to know her normal and finding the confidence to get her lump checked out.
Hi Stephanie, thanks for talking to me today. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to hear about CoppaFeel!?
I’m Stephanie, I grew up in New York but moved to London three years ago with work. I love getting out, exploring London and being active, whether that’s running, playing tennis, taking gym classes, or taking my dog out for a walk. CoppaFeel! Have been on my radar for a few years – the PR company I work for shared a building with an ad agency who created Boob Soap for CoppaFeel! More recently, I was reintroduced to the charity through the Boob Bot.
Cool – can you tell me a little bit about the Boob Bot and how you came across our charity?
I think it was a sponsored post on Instagram. I happened to see an advert for Boob Bot on a story so I swiped up and went through to the chatbot. I do check semi-regularly, but not really routinely, and so I thought, “yeah ok, I’ll give this a go”. When I’ve seen guidance before, it’s generally telling you what to feel for, but you don’t normally get the chance to try yourself and have a go. But this seemed fairly descriptive and would walk you through it.
I used the Boob Bot and it showed me exactly where to feel and what to feel for. I ended up finding a lump in my left breast.
When I went to my GP, I was referred to Charing Cross hospital’s breast clinic. While they were friendly, they were not thorough. I received a short ultrasound and was sent on my way. Not feeling particularly convinced, I went private (I’m lucky to have insurance that covers it). While the NHS only did a scan of my left breast local to where the lump was felt, the private clinic scanned both breasts. The initial lump I’d found turned out to be nothing, but when they scanned the right side they found two masses and took biopsies of those. One of those is a fibroadenoma, but the other is still unidentified, so I’m waiting to find out what that is and I have to go back in ten weeks (at the end of April) for another scan and potentially to have a biopsy on that.
It sounds like it was really important to you to push for a referral and get to the bottom of this – what motivated you?
My mom’s cousin and great grandmother both had breast cancer, and on my mom’s paternal side there was also a history of ovarian cancer, so mum and I both keep an eye on our boobs as we’re very aware of the risk. Additionally, If you look at the likes of Glamour and Bustle and those kind of female-focussed publications, it feels like they are definitely doing a lot more to raise awareness of cancers in young women, definitely in the states.
That helped me realise that your age doesn’t rule you out, and that there are so many factors involved in your risk.
Another big driving force for me was that a friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. She is 29, and has no family history of breast cancer. Now my friend has been diagnosed, and it turns out it is stage 4 metastatic breast cancer – so we’re not really sure what’s going to come next. It was a similar scenario in ways, she found a lump, saw her doctor, was told she was too young for it to be breast cancer but was offered a scan if she wanted one. This was in early 2019, but, feeling reassured by her doctors, and busy with work and life, she didn’t have the scan.
By October the lump was still there and she also had noticed dimpling, so she decided to go and get it checked out again – she lives in the city and was able to go to a really good hospital where they did the scan, and they told her she needed to go for further investigations immediately.
Not long after that they discovered it was cancer. Initially the outlook looked good and she was advised to start a treatment of chemotherapy, but they soon realised the cancer had already spread.
I heard that news the day after I had my scan at the NHS Hospital in Charing Cross, and so that was really the kick up the butt I needed to go and have it investigated privately, so I could know for sure. It was a real prompt for me to see my doctor and to push for a referral and get it checked out.
I’m so sorry to hear about your friend – it seems natural that discovering the news must really have driven home the importance of early detection. Did you have any reservations about seeing your GP?
My main concern with asking for a second opinion was “am I being a hypochondriac? Am I being too paranoid?” But I think that’s the problem, that we (young people) feel that we might be being paranoid and that our doctor isn’t going to take us seriously. But we need to cut through that.
Yes, I think a lot of people feel that way, which is why one of our aims with the Boob Bot is to empower people with the confidence that they know their body best, and should see their doctor about any changes. Do you think that using the bot had any impact on your decision?
I had never used anything like the Bot before and it was really helpful as it allowed me to go through a check step-by-step and forced me to slow down and actually think about what I was feeling.
Boob Bot helped for sure, I wouldn’t have noticed that initial lump without having gone through the check, and because of that, I discovered the other lumps, which are now being investigated.
Brilliant. Before we go, is there anything you would say to people in a similar situation?
I’d suggest to anyone in the same situation to come prepared with any questions you’d like to ask (write them down if it helps) and go with someone to your appointment if you feel like having company would help. Have your questions ready and don’t be afraid to ask about things you’re not sure about.
Thanks Stephanie! If you have any concerns about unusual changes to your boobs or pecs, check out our advice on what to do if you’ve found something, which includes guidance on speaking to your doctor.