Dr David Crichton’s blog: Learn from Emma’s experience and check regularly

I received some wonderful news recently when a colleague I have known for several years ‘rang the bell’ to announce she had successfully completed treatment for breast cancer.

Ringing a bell has traditionally become an important part of celebrating a cancer patient’s road to recovery – something Emma Serfozo delighted in doing at Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital.

Emma Serfozo

A married mum of two from Barnby Dun, Emma, 43, works for NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, where she helps organise NHS services for Doncaster patients.

She believes that being ‘breast aware’ could well have helped save her life and she wants others to learn from her experience. She learned all about self-examination whilst working at a GP practice in her early 20s and since then has routinely checked her breasts, constantly looking for any signs of change.

Emma’s concerned that many younger women are not as clued-up as they should be and are missing out on checking their breasts as regularly as they should do. It’s an important point because women are not called for an NHS breast screening appointment until they are 50, so are potentially putting themselves at risk by not spending a few minutes doing a self-examination.

It came to light when she told her friends – who are in their 40s – of her cancer diagnosis and was horrified to hear them admit they hadn’t ever self-checked.

Emma’s brush with breast cancer started when she noticed that one breast felt different to the other. With no breast cancer history in her family, she left it for a while but it was always nagging away at the back of her mind and one morning in July 2016 she woke up and decided to see her GP.

She had a fast-track referral to Doncaster’s Jasmine Centre where the tests revealed lots of cysts and hard tissue but nothing seemed amiss.

By October 2017, she was still checking, but this time felt a definite lump in a different area of her breast. But, importantly, she could only feel it when she was laid down.

Again it played on her mind for a while until she went to see her GP who referred her back to the Jasmine Centre where a range of new tests confirmed breast cancer. She had surgery earlier this year, followed by 23 sessions of radiotherapy.

Six months on, the cancer is gone and Emma is starting a phased return to work. She looks a picture of health in her garden, with a renewed determination to plant this message in every woman’s mind: ‘Check your breasts regularly – those few minutes could save your life’.

More about self-examination here: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/womens-health/how-should-i-check-my-breasts/