A mum has told how her cancer diagnosis was delayed for 10 months after she was told she was “too young” for a biopsy when she first spotted the lump.
Amie Sheward, now 25, had just had her second child when she noticed a growth spreading from her left breast to her armpit.
She thought maybe the soreness was due to her pregnancy and her GP said it was likely to be fibroadenomas, a benign type of lump that can affect women aged 15 to 35, she says.
But as the lump continued to grow, Amie became alarmed and returned to the surgery multiple times, she claims.
Then aged 24, she says she was told by medics that she would not qualify for a biopsy until she was a year older despite her concerns.
Each time, she said she was advised there was nothing suspicious about her lump.
Guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement suggests that women who go to their GP with concerns about a lump that is changing should be referred to a specialist breast clinic.
Sadly, Amie said this didn’t happen until 10 months later when, in December 2019, having turned 25, she was finally given a test.
She then received the devastating news that she had stage 3 breast cancer that had spread into her lymph nodes.
“To start with I just thought I had really bad breasts due to the breast milk which was making me constantly sore but then I found a lump,” said Amie, who is mum to Kami-Lea, four, and Parker, two.
“I knew from the first day I went to the doctors that it was cancer, I just knew.
“But the doctor said because I was 24, I was too young to be given a biopsy and that I would have to wait until I was 25.”
Amie sadly had to have a mastectomy on New Year’s Eve 2019 aged just 25.
She has since gone on to have 18 rounds of chemotherapy, nine rounds of radiotherapy and 18 rounds of antibody treatments at Solihull Hospital near her home.
“Having a mastectomy at 25 has knocked my self-esteem,” she added.
“Your breasts show that you’re a woman and now I’m avoiding people if I see them in the street. I’ve been told I can have a reconstruction eventually but that’s likely to take some time with the pandemic.
“I’ve lost my hair and my fingernails and toenails due to the treatment.
“The children are a bit young to understand what is going on. My four-year-old was with me when I had my head shaved and she knows mummy has to go into hospital sometimes.
“My treatment is still continuing as they’re having to remove cells in my chest walls and tissues.
“I haven’t made any complaints at all, as it all came as a shock and I’m still having treatment.”
Amie’s GP was run by Kingshurst Medical Practice Intrahealth Ltd. at the time of her diagnosis and is now run by Operose Health.
A spokesperson from NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG said they were unable to comment on individual cases.
When asked what their advice would be to a person who finds a lump, they said: “It’s incredibly important that anyone who has health concerns, including finding new lumps or bumps, arranges to speak with their GP as soon as possible and avoid putting it off.”
Amie said: “I’d say once you’ve seen a doctor, demand a biopsy if you think that’s what you need. It’s not like it’s a major surgery, it’s just a needle in and out. It’s ridiculous I wasn’t able to get treatment sooner.”