A clerical mix-up which led to a South Tyneside woman undergoing breast cancer screening a year early may have saved her life.
South Shields grandmother Sharon Rundle was given the all clear after attending her first mammogram at the age of 50 and told it would be another three years before she would have to undergo another screening.
But, last year a letter landed on her doorstep asking her to attend a routine mammogram – a year earlier than she should have been called.
It was a clerical error – but the scan showed the presence of cancer in her left breast.
Sharon, 52, said: “I didn’t even notice the letter had come a year early.
“I saw it and attended the screening session.”
Everyone thinks it’s just lumps you need to feel for, but you also need to look for physical changes also.Sharon Rundle
“Then a letter arrived asking me to attend hospital. I just knew what they were going to say.
“They explained I had been sent a year earlier for screening due to a mistake, but the doctor said if I’d not been sent the letter a year early, the prognosis could have been a lot worse.
“They said it was as if someone was looking out for me and I’d like to think it was my mam Margaret Anderson who died two years ago after suffering from stomach cancer.”
She added: “In a way I have been lucky.”
Sharon, from Lincoln Road, South Shields, said she felt fit and healthy before the diagnosis and regular checks on her breasts didn’t reveal any lumps.
However, after her diagnosis she discovered dimples when she carried out her own check – an indication cancer could be present.
She added: “When they told me it was cancer, it was such a shock.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear.
“I hadn’t felt ill and I hadn’t felt any lumps. But after I was diagnosed I looked and found some dimples when I lifted my arm above my head– this was where the cancer was.
“When I tell people they can’t believe it, and it’s not something they would look for when checking their breasts.
“Everyone thinks it’s just lumps you need to feel for, but you also need to look for physical changes also.”
Sharon is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a bid to fight the cancer.
The treatment led to her losing her hair prompting her to shave off her locks in a bid to take back control of the disease which had invaded her body.
Sharon would like to thank her family, friends and neighbours for their support and for helping her to raise almost £1,500 for the charity based at Harton Lane, South Shields.
How to check your breasts
Sharon Rundle is calling on women to follow all the guidelines when checking their breasts.
The 52-year-old says it was only after she was diagnosed that she noticed a dimpling effect on one of her breasts – a sign cancer could be present.
Up until then she had been checking her breasts but had been concentrating on feeling for lumps.
Sharon said: “I really can’t stress enough how important it is to not just check for lumps but to also check for any dimpling or changes.
“A lot of people I’ve spoken to can’t believe what’s happened. When people think about breast cancer they automatically think they should be looking for a lump but with me there was no lump it was just dimples.
“Hopefully this will help raise awareness of the other signs women should be looking out for when checking their breasts.”
A spokeswoman for charity Breast Cancer Care said: “There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts. Whatever your age, it’s really important to get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you.”
They have released the following information to help women to check for the signs of breast cancer:
• Breast cancer’s not just a lump, try to be aware of any changes that are different for you – things like puckering or dimpling, redness or a rash, your nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing its position or shape, a change in the size or shape of your breasts or any discharge from your nipples.
• Remember to check all parts of your breast, including your armpits and up to your collarbone.
• Knowing what warning signs to look for can lead to earlier detection of breast cancer. This can be crucial in providing more effective treatment and, ultimately, saving lives.
• If you notice any unusual breast changes go and see your GP as soon as possible.
• Not all changes will be breast cancer, but if you are diagnosed your specialist team will then discuss your treatment options with you.
• Call Breast Cancer Care’s nurses free on 0808 800 6000 or visit breastcancercare.org.uk for more information.