PEOPLE with troubling and unusual symptoms shouldn’t delay in seeing their GP despite the Covid-19 pandemic, a cancer patient has warned.
Breast cancer patient Alison Tait said early diagnoses could “save your life”.
Alison Tait has incurable breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy during lockdownCredit: Alison Tait
Coronavirus restrictions have meant that Brits have been advised to “stay at home to protect the NHS” but this has meant that many people have been left feeling anxious about visiting their GP.
Mum Alison Tait was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and was told it had spread to her liver.
The lockdowns have been distressing for many people, but for Alison they have meant she had to attend her appointments alone.
Despite this she is still urging others to come forward if they have any signs or symptoms of cancer.
Speaking to The Sun, Alison said: “I can understand why people might be wary of going to their GP at the moment, but it’s so important to do so.
“The sooner cancer is diagnosed the better the chance of successful treatment, so it really is in your best interests to raise it with your GP as soon as you have any concerns. They are there to help.”
After her diagnoses in 2016 the 51-year-old was told it was incurable but treatable and had a year of intensive treatment.
The Edinburgh mum was then told the treatment was successful and there were no longer any signs of active disease.
Sadly in January 2020, Alison noticed some dimpling on her breast and scans confirmed that the cancer had come back.
Alison said all sorts of thoughts ran through her head when the first coronavirus lockdown started in March 2020 – as her mastectomy was scheduled for April.
I’m feeling really well, people must think ‘how can you say that with incurable cancer’
She said: “It was hard because I had never been for an operation before so I had no expectations or anything to compare it to – that was pretty frightening.
“My 19-year-old daughter had to drop me off at the door and watch me go in on my own.
“Other patients at the hospital were really nervous, but the surgeons and doctors were all reassuring.
“When my operation was scheduled, I knew there was a risk of it being cancelled or postponed and I was constantly worrying about this. ‘Would my surgeon contract Covid?’, ‘would the hospital close down?’, were all thoughts that kept me awake at night.”
KNOW THE SIGNS: What is breast cancer and what are the symptoms you should look out for?
WITH over 50,000 cases each year, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease in UK women.
Breast cancer is the name given to any cancers that have first developed in the breast tissue – there are many different types.
Nearly 1,000 people die from breast cancer every month in the UK, with the disease killing around 11,500 women and 80 men each year.
For most women, the first sign or symptom of breast cancer is a lump or area of thickened tissue in their breast.
While 90 per cent of such lumps are not cancerous, it is vital to get them checked by your GP at the earliest opportunity – detecting the disease early can mean treatment is more effective.
It is therefore vitally important to be “breast aware” – know what feels normal for you, and therefore what changes to look out for.
What are the key signs and symptoms?
- Change in breast size or shape
- Redness or rash
- Nipple discharge
- Swelling in the armpit or around the collar bone
- Change in skin texture
- An inverted nipple
- Constant pain
After having the operation Alison said she had a speedy recovery and really got stuck in with physio.
But just four weeks after the operation, Alison started to feel unwell.
She said: “I knew something wasn’t right, I just kept shivering.”
Alison had to have a second operation to make sure everything had been completely removed.
She then had to have 15 rounds of radiotherapy.
Alison had shielded at the start of the pandemic and her teenage daughter Ellen had also taken precautions to keep her mum safe.
“The hardest thing about lockdown is that you feel as though you are missing out on a lot of memories and when you have cancer that’s even more important”, Alison said.
A keen gym-goer, Alison said she missed training during lockdown but had some solace as she was able to walk her working cocker spaniel Jasper.
Alison said lockdown has been sad and that she hasn’t been able to travel as she usually would Credit: Alison Tait
Alison added: “I missed the gym when it was shut but I managed to get hold of a spin bike and was also doing Body Coach workouts like the rest of the country.
“Lockdown wasn’t terrible in terms of things I couldn’t do – it was just really sad.
“I love travelling and had plans to travel with friends. We had a cruise booked in August and I was also meant to be going to New York but that got cancelled.”
“I’m feeling really well, people must think ‘how can you say that with incurable cancer’.”
MAKE THE BEST OF IT
She said both her and her daughter are under the assumption that you should “make the best of what you have”.
She urged people to continue to follow the rules set out by the government.
Alison said: “It’s frustrating that people are breaking the rules, people are missing out on some really important things and there are others who are happy to flaunt the fact that they are breaking the rules.
“They are setting things back and making really big sacrifices – but we need to get through this.”
Alison has now had her jab as her breast cancer diagnoses puts her in the priority group.
She said: Thankfully I’ve had my jab now but those worries around contracting the virus never really leave you.
“It gives me greater comfort though, in that if I were to get the virus, my chances of survival will be better. And of course it will help reduce the risk of me passing it on to someone else too.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out his roadmap out of lockdown with parts of society slowly opening up one by one.
Alison said it’s likely that people with feel strange about being in each others spaces once restrictions are lifted.
She said: “I’m both excited and apprehensive about lockdown restrictions being lifted.
“For me it will be small steps into situations that I haven’t been able to enjoy for a while to make sure I feel comfortable with how other people are behaving and their adherence to the advice we’re given.
“I’m looking forward to being able to get together with my parents and my brother and his family, all at the same time.
“Meeting up with friends with a glass of wine or two.”
Alison said that getting on a plane is something that seems “a long way off” for her but said she was “hoping to be surprised” at how fast it becomes safe to travel again.
Looking to the future, Alison said she hopes people will have more empathy for those who are battling cancer.
“There’s just not enough awareness of the impact that cancer has on people, but people don’t understand that if it’s not in their life.
“Regardless of what people believe or what they are entitled to there needs to be more empathy for other people who are living with disease or other conditions.”
Alison has been working with charity Breast Cancer Now to help others like her whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer.
She added: “I am so honoured to be involved in Breast Cancer Now’s first virtual event, REUNIGHT. Events like these are so important to help drive progress for people who are affected by breast cancer.
“Breast Cancer Now funds a third of all breast cancer research in the UK, which ultimately gives people like me more hope for the future and more time with my daughter.”
Take on Breast Cancer Now’s £1,000 Challenge and help raise money for dedicated secondary breast cancer research to fund more breakthroughs, find more answers and save lives. Visit: breastcancernow.org/£1000-challenge.