Sheffield breast cancer survivor encourages self-examination following Sarah Harding’s death at 39

By Phoebe Melmoth

A Sheffield mum has spoken about the trauma of breast cancer following the death of Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding at the age of 39.  

All women should “get to know their breasts”, says a specialist (Photo by Unsplash)

The mum-of-one, who doesn’t wish to be named, was shocked to be diagnosed with the disease at the age of 41.

She said: “When I heard about Sarah passing away I felt sick. That could have been me.

“Before I was diagnosed I didn’t know anything about breast cancer or how to look for it.

“I feel like Sarah’s death must have scared a lot of people, I don’t think anyone really thinks about the possibility of having it under 50.

“I was so shocked when I was diagnosed with it so young.

When she first suspected a lump and went to get it checked her doctor couldn’t feel anything, but she knew something was definitely wrong.

“If I hadn’t been as adamant as I was that there was a lump it might not have been caught until it was too late. The doctor said I was very lucky to have caught it so early.

“It’s so important to be self-aware of your body and know when something’s wrong. 

“The whole experience is just so traumatic and anxiety inducing, all you do is cry all the time. Seven years later it still affects me massively.”

She said she was lucky her sister was supportive and there for her every step of the way, and was there at every chemo session.

A breast cancer clinical nurse specialist, Jenn Darbyshire, from Sheffield, has advised that regular monthly check-ups are important for women under 50.

We are seeing an increase in younger breast cancer patients

“Eighty per cent of breast cancers are diagnosed above the age of 50. The remaining 20% relates to a less common diagnosis but we see breast cancer as early as 22 years of age.

“We are seeing an increase in younger breast cancer patients and this is a continuous concern.”

The specialist urged young women to “get to know their breasts”.

“Regular, monthly checks are important and I would recommend knowing your breasts within your 20s. Breast sensations can vary because of hormonal changes and monthly cycles.

“Most women feel these changes physically but knowing your normal lumps and bumps is so important.”

Benign lumps in breasts are very common in young women and don’t need any treatment but knowing what yours are is a great personal understanding and GPs should always review if changes or lumps are found.

“If you have noticed a change or a lump, your GP needs to review it,” Jenn advised.

Sarah Harding died just a year after she took to twitter to announce she had been hospitalised with cancer

She was a bright, shining star

Harding’s mum announced the star’s death on Instagram, saying: “It is with deep heart break that today I’m sharing the news that my beautiful daughter Sarah has sadly passed away.  

“She slipped away peacefully this morning.”

She went on to describe her as “a bright shining star” who “fought so strongly from her diagnosis until her last day”.

Members of Girls Aloud paid tribute to their fellow bandmate over social media.

Cheryl Cole, described Sarah as: “Stunning, unique, crazy, quirky, kind and soft hearted”.

Meanwhile Kimberley Walsh wrote: “To wake up and know that you are really gone is too much to bear.

“Hearing your infectious chuckle was one of my favourite things in the world. Your fire burned so bright.”

Nicola Roberts said she was: “Absolutely devastated”.

“A part of me isn’t here anymore”, the singer wrote on Instagram.            

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