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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
'Knowledge aided early cancer spot'
Barbara Symonds - copyright Cancer Research UK
Barbara says women should discuss cancer signs
Cancer experts say almost two thirds of women now diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to survive for at least 20 years.

Spotting warning signs early is one of the major factors in improving women's chances of survival, experts say.

It's two years since Barbara Symonds, 58, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I was just doing my hair and I noticed a puckering of the skin on my left breast.

"I knew that wasn't good, so I went to see my GP."

Women must examine themselves and get to the doctor quickly if they spot anything
Barbara Simmons

He referred Barbara, from Quinton in Birmingham, on to the rapid access clinic at City Hospital.

She said: "I was seen in about 10 days.

"It was very reassuring to be seen so quickly because waiting is very stressful.

"On the Monday I saw a consultant and had a mammogram. Then on the Wednesday I had a fine needle aspiration, where some tissue was removed from my breast.

"But I have to say, it wasn't painful."

'Spreading the news'

Barbara was told the tests had found cancer cells in her breast. But, because she had seen the signs early and the disease had not spread, she was offered a lumpectomy, where just the cancerous lump is removed.

"It is absolutely earth-shattering to be told you have cancer.

"My first reaction was that I should be dead my Christmas.

"But I discovered there is more out there for cancer patients than you can probably imagine."

Barbara added: "I had private insurance, so I had the operation on the following Monday evening.

"But even if I'd waited to have it on the NHS, it would have taken place within a couple of weeks.

"Because I found it early, I didn't have to have chemotherapy, but I did have some sessions of radiotherapy."

Barbara, who is now taking a course of tamoxifen, has been given a good prognosis, but says she regularly checks her breasts to make sure nothing has changed.

"I feel wonderful.

"And I do want to say that women must examine themselves and get to the doctor quickly if they spot anything.

"I'm grateful to all the researchers working in this area, but also to the women.

"I knew that puckering of skin was a problem because other women had come out of their 'embarrassment shells' and spread the news."


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