A Bristol mum who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the centre of the coronavirus lockdown has urged anyone who suspects they have cancer symptoms not to delay seeking advice.
Jess Bateman, from Clifton, who has two sons aged 6 years and 15 months, found a lump on her breast in early June which she initially thought was related to breastfeeding.
After being seen by consultants at the Breast Care Unit at Southmead, a biopsy confirmed that she had breast cancer and is now undergoing treatment.
Jess, 36, said she was reassured by the social distancing measures in place at the unit and urged others not to put off seeking treatment if they are concerned about visiting their GP or a hospital because of Covid-19.
Jess said: “I was stretching and I noticed that I had a lump. I had recently finished breastfeeding so I presumed it was something to do with that as I had had a few problems when I was feeding. I thought it would be a good idea to speak to my doctor about it so called my GP surgery and had a phone consultation. We agreed to speak again in 10 days and see if things had changed.
“When the GP called back things were still the same so she decided to refer me to the Breast Care Unit at Southmead straight away. Even after examination at the care unit it seems to be normal but I had a biopsy and results came back to show that there were cancerous cells.”
Jess was told that although the cancer was in three areas of the breast it was still at the first stage and the outlook was good.
She said: “I was told that I needed to have a full mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It was a shock but I was glad that it has been caught early. I feel that my life has been potentially saved by the early diagnosis and it scares me what could have happened if I’d waited as it can be the difference between life and death.
“It was a medium growth tumour and if it had been 2-3 months further along it could have been a lot worse. It’s really important to get advice straight away.”
Jess has since been back to the Breast Care Unit to speak to a plastic surgeon about the mastectomy and have multiple mammograms. She has also spoken to an oncologist over the phone to understand what the chemotherapy involves.
She said: “I feel completely reassured by the social distancing measures in place at the Breast Care Unit. It’s a stressful time waiting for your results and, whilst you aren’t able to have anyone with you in the waiting room, they do allow you to bring someone into the consulting room. I feel that they have created a healthy balance between keeping the staff and patients safe, whilst understanding the patients need for emotional support during a very difficult time.
“It’s a funny experience talking to the staff when they are in masks but overall it has been fine and I have not found it too hard. I trust the people at the NHS to keep everyone safe and they are doing all they can to protect people from the virus.”
Dr Alison Wint, Clinical Lead for Cancer & Specialised Commissioning at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We want to reassure everyone across BNSSG that our diagnostic, out-patient and treatment services are open for business. The safety of both staff and patients is taken very seriously and we appreciate the cooperation of patients with these measures.
“Please don’t put off speaking to your GP if you have concerns about anything that doesn’t feel right such as unexplained weight loss, bleeding or change in bowel habits. In many cases following tests, no further treatment will be required but if a problem is found, starting treatment early can mean a much better outcome.”