Don’t miss vital screening tests, urged mum after cancer diagnosis

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A cancer diagnosis has led to a lifestyle change for women Leeds woman. Catherine Scott reports.

It was just a few months after her 50th birthday that Karen McLean had her first mammogram – and to her complete surprise, the routine screening test showed that she had breast cancer.

Karen, from Leeds, is now urging all women to attend the vital appointments.

She said: “I can’t highlight enough the importance of attending regular screening checks, and more importantly, going for call backs regardless of how reluctant you may be. I now encourage all my friends and family to take part in screening, whether it’s for breast, bowel or cervical cancer, and tell them to look out for any changes to their body.”

Karen turned 50 in October 2013 and was invited to attend her first appointment the following February. After a mass was spotted, she was found to have large 8cm tumour in her left breast, as well as a smaller lump in her right breast.

Karen, now 52, said: “I had no idea I had cancer. I’d had no symptoms and although I’d lost a lot of weight, this had been intentional so I didn’t see it as a warning sign. It came as a complete shock. Looking back, I probably had noticed changes in my breasts, but I’d put it down to ageing.”

Two weeks after the biopsy, Karen underwent a lumpectomy on her right breast. This was followed by a mastectomy on her left breast in April. Further checks revealed that the cancer had spread to tissue surrounding her right breast, so doctors performed a second mastectomy.

Karen was unable to be given chemotherapy or Tamoxifen due to a pre-existing condition, but she was treated with radiotherapy for six weeks following surgery to ensure there were no remaining cancerous cells. She underwent surgery and radiotherapy and since then, Karen, a full-time carer to her disabled son, has dramatically changed her lifestyle. She now eats more healthily, drinks lots of water and exercises regularly.

In January this year, she decided to set herself the challenge of walking 1,000 miles during 2016. She’s already walked more than 800 miles, and took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge last weekend to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research.

Karen said: “I feel better these days than I ever have before and I love getting out into the countryside. I’m doing this not only for me as a survivor but for all those that have fought and won.”