Frances Clarke, 57, who lives in Forest Gate discovered she had cancer just before Christmas, seven years ago. "One day when I was washing I looked in the mirror and I saw a tiny lump. My first reaction was to ignore it. I had a busy life, I didn't feel ill and I didn't want to make a fuss about something that would probably turn out to be a false alarm. I have three children, I was too busy to be ill. But I knew that it couldn't be ignored.”
Frances went to the doctor the next morning and was referred to Barts Hospital for tests which confirmed that the lump was cancerous. She was admitted just after Christmas for a partial mastectomy. "A lump, the size of a small finger nail was removed on a Tuesday and I was ready to go home on the Thursday. I was surprised and delighted by how quickly I was discharged,” she says. “The operation seemed quite minor. I felt very lucky indeed”.
Three weeks later analysis of the breast tissue showed that Frances had the most aggressive kind of cancer. For this reason the oncologist recommended a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “Chemotherapy isn't nearly as bad as it used to be, but it is still tough going,” Frances says. “But it didn't last for long. By reacting quickly I was able to have the cancer removed before it could spread around my body”.
Frances is now running a cancer awareness project encouraging women and girls to recognise the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and to have the confidence to go to the doctor straight away if they think something may be wrong. “There are so many treatments now for cancer”, she says. “But we can't benefit from these medical advances if we don't get help quickly. Our lives are in our own hands."
If you notice a lump you need to see your GP now.
It could be something serious such as cancer. Spotting it early could save your life.