11 November 2014
A breast cancer expert from Wrexham is urging women to check themselves more regularly.
Early detection is vital in the fight against breast cancer according to Heather Stephens, the specialist breast care nurse at Spire Yale Hospital.
Heather gave a series of presentations to staff and patients during a week of fundraising activities which saw staff at the private hospital raise a bucketful of charity cash for breast care awareness.
She said: “We have had a week of fundraising with our chefs baking pink cupcakes which have been sold with all proceeds going to the charity. And staff, who are able, have been wearing pink for the week to help raise awareness too.
“And staff and patients have also donated a huge number of raffle prizes which are being raffled, again with all the money going to the charity. We have a target of raising £500 and hopefully we will achieve that.
“It’s been a good week of fundraising while I have been giving regular presentations to both staff and patients. I have tried to give people some facts about breast cancer and tried to explain how early diagnosis is vital.”
Heather says 50,000 women and around 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
She said: “The problem is only around 10 per cent of breast cancer cases are caused by a faulty gene. The biggest risk is simply getting older. Currently one in 2,000 women aged up to 29 will be diagnosed with breast cancer but that rises to one in just 13 of women aged 69 or over.
“I have patients who will point to their healthy lifestyle and the fact they don’t drink or smoke who simply cannot understand why they have breast cancer. The truth is we simply don’t know what causes it. It’s almost like a game of chance.
“However, survival rates are so much better now as women will now more openly talk about the disease. We have so much more information available and treatments have dramatically improved.
“And even re-constructive surgery, for those women that need to have a mastectomy has developed and improved in recent years. A mastectomy can seem like the end of the world but it really isn’t. And in any case not every breast cancer diagnosis leads to that kind of surgery.
She added: “What is important is early detection. Women should regularly check their breasts, perhaps as they shower is a good time. They should be aware of what is normal for them, the texture, feel and shape of the breast.
“And should they notice a difference, or there is anything that raises concerns, and it doesn’t have to be a lump, seek medical advice immediately. Go and see your GP and insist on full checks.
“New and improved treatments mean that 8 out of 10 breast cancer sufferers survive beyond five years and often far, far longer. But I cannot stress enough, the importance of early detection.”
Heather was thrilled with the level of support shown by Spire Yale Hospital staff during her breast cancer awareness week.
She said: “Everyone has really got behind the campaign and have really helped drive the message home.
“I could not be happier with the support I have had and the fact so many members of staff and patients have supported the campaign by donating raffle prizes and listening to presentations.
“It’s been an amazing week which will hopefully see us raise our £500 target for the breast cancer awareness charity.”
Linda Jones, Wrexham Spire Yale Hospital’s matron says Heather's breast cancer awareness sessions were of vital importance in getting the message of early detection across to staff and patients.
She said: “I’m really pleased that everyone at Spire Yale really got behind the breast cancer awareness week. Whether they have worn pink in support of the campaign, donated raffle prizes or bought tickets it’s been a fantastic week.
“Heather’s presentations have really driven home the message of the importance of early detection and I think everyone who took the time to listen to what she had to say will have learnt something.”
She added: “There is definitely an important message there for all women of whatever age – check your breasts regularly and seek urgent medical advice should you notice any change from what you know as normal.”