Chorley mum with breast cancer encourages women to 'listen to their bodies'
Mum-of-one Siobhan Mannion was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in April after four months of being told the painful lump on her breast was a cyst. Now she is spreading awareness encouraging young women to get checked out.
Being told that the painful lump on her breast was nothing more than a cyst by doctors is what stopped Siobhan’s violent breast cancer being diagnosed earlier this year.
She was sent home with antibiotics and told that because the lump didn’t hurt and she was young, that it was nothing to worry about.
Siobhan, from Long Meadows, Chorley, claims that she knew something was wrong with her body and despite what the doctors had said, repeatedly asked them to make her an appointment at the Central Lancashire Breast Unit.
It was only when she revealed that her family had a history with battling breast cancer and that her auntie had suffered from the disease, that this wish was granted as a precaution.
Within minutes of her appointment at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, she was told the devastating news that she had breast cancer.
She is now spreading the message that all people, regardless of age, can be diagnosed with the illness and is encouraging people to get checked out if they find a lump.
Siobhan, 33, said: “I went to urgent care in the new year and the doctors told me it was a cyst and nothing to worry about. I was told I was too young for it to be cancer, but it began growing bigger and bigger.
“My lump was painful and it is a common misconception that cancerous lumps don’t hurt, which isn’t always the case. I was in agony, I couldn’t lie on my right side and it kept growing. I know my own body and knew something was wrong.
“I made another appointment and got a referral to the breast unit in Chorley and I just knew it would be something more serious. The surgeon looked at it and knew it was cancer straight away.”
A biopsy then revealed that she had triple-negative breast cancer - that develops in approximately just 15 per cent of women with breast cancer and is more common in younger women under the age of 40.
Seven cycles of tough carboplatin chemotherapy then began in a bid to shrink the painful tumour, that Siobhan said made her feel ‘horrendous’ - all whilst caring for her ten-year-old son Riley.
She said: “I would go for treatment every three weeks and it was just awful. It was the hardest thing I had ever done and just felt as though I had been hit by a bus.
“Straight away, I noticed that after my first round of chemotherapy, my tumour started to shrink and by the end of my treatment, it had gone from 8cm to 1.5cm and I was so happy because I knew it was working.”
Although the chemotherapy proved successful on shrinking Siobhan’s cancer, results from a CT scan then showed it had already begun spreading to her liver.
The 33-year-old, who works as an undertaker, was then told she had stage four cancer.
Stage four cancer means cancer has spread from its origin to distant parts of the body and becomes harder to treat.
And according to the NHS website, breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer, with ageing also increases the risk.
Siobhan is now determined to help use her story to spread awareness that this isn’t always the case.
“This form of cancer is known to spread like wildfire and for all I know, it could have been spreading back in January when I first went to the doctors but it wasn’t diagnosed,” she said.
“Triple-negative cancer is much more painful, aggressive and spreads quickly. It doesn’t always respond to chemotherapy so can be very hard to control.
“The scary part is, it is a roll of the dice because for some, cancer can be resistant to chemotherapy and they can die within six months.”
Being left without her hair and mobility from the chemotherapy was already a difficult challenge for the Preston mum-of-one, but she was handed another devastating blow in September.
After rounds of EC chemotherapy and weeks of hospitalisation, she learned that it had further spread to her lungs and is now uncertain of what the future holds for her and her family with son Riley and partner Darren.
Doctors have placed her back on carboplatin chemotherapy that was previously successful in shrinking her original breast tumour in a bid to extend her life expectancy.
Siobhan is encouraging women to check their breasts regularly following the news that her cancer has spread to her liver and lungs.
According to research charity Breast Cancer Now, 47 per cent of women in the UK don’t check their breasts regularly for potential signs of breast cancer.
And they revealed that one in 10 have ‘never checked their breasts for new or unusual changes’.
Manveet Basra, Head of Public Health and Wellbeing at Breast Cancer Now, said: ”Breast checking is quick, easy, and can help detect any breast cancer early, giving treatment the best chance of working.
“Many women may know that a lump can be a possible symptom of breast cancer, but it’s vital to know that there are other signs to be aware of too. This could be nipple discharge, dimpling or puckering of the skin of the breast, the breast looking red or inflamed, or swelling in the upper chest or armpit.
“There’s no special technique – just get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you, so you can spot any new or unusual changes, and remember to check all parts of your breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone for changes.”
Alastair Richards, CEO of North West Cancer Research, said: “It is vital to raise awareness of cancer and its associated symptoms and to encourage people to be more vigilant when it comes to recognising the early warning signs.
“Even though breast cancer is one of the top two most common cancers in the UK, we need to do more to encourage people to undergo regular health checks. We all know our bodies best and if we feel something is not quite right, we should raise those concerns with our GP as soon as possible. This is especially relevant for the younger generation who may not consider themselves as at risk.
“Early detection and prompt treatment are essential to saving lives. Through our research, we have made huge breakthroughs in improving early detection but there is still work to do in increasing awareness of the symptoms across all age groups in Lancashire and the North West.”
Siobhan says she is determined to keep fighting and is ‘not ready to leave her son motherless just yet’.
She added: “I am lucky that I am receptive to this treatment and it is currently working as I am not in any pain and remain hopeful that it will attack my cancer and stop it spreading.
“Eventually I know I will die of cancer, but people can and are living for years after if the treatment works. You can get to the point where there is no active disease in your body.
“They are hitting me really hard with chemotherapy now for three months and then hopefully it will get easier. I am remaining hopeful and positive because you just have to be.
“There are people much worse off than me and I always try to remember that. I just take each day as it comes and am not planning too far ahead. There are days where I just want to die but there are so many more good days than bad.
“Women need to realise they need to listen to their bodies when it tells you something is wrong. If you see a dimple or lump you should go and get it checked out. It was only through the persistence that they sent me to the breast unit because of the pain I was in.
“I am going to keep fighting and am not ready to leave my son without a mother.”
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