Barista aged 23 is stunned when a lump she squeezes thinking it is a pimple is in fact a fast growing cancerous tumour above her left breast

·7-min read

A 23-year-old barista was stunned when a lump she squeezed thinking it was a pimple after spotting it while getting dressed was in fact a fast growing cancerous tumour above her left breast.

When the bump Siobhan Harrison tried to pop in December 2020 grew and became bruised after squeezing it, she suspected it was because she had aggravated it.

So, when tests revealed she had stage 2 triple negative breast cancer, she was horrified.

Siobhan says her fear of the cancer returning will always stay with her. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan says her fear of the cancer returning will always stay with her. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Now 24 and cancer free, Siobhan, of New Tredegar in the Rhymney Valley in South Wales, said: “I never thought I was at risk of cancer, especially at my age.

“I want to get the word out that young women need to be checking their breasts for lumps and must notify their doctor if there are any changes, as it could be lifesaving.

“I feel so lucky now to be cancer free.”

Siobhan was diagnosed with cancer aged 23. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan was diagnosed with cancer aged 23. (Collect/PA Real Life)

When Siobhan first saw a bump protruding above her left breast, she just assumed it was a spot.

She said: “I could see it. It was clearly visible quite high up on my chest, so I thought it was just a pimple. I tried to pop it but that just made it bruise.

“I kept an eye on it for a while and noticed it getting bigger, which I thought was because I’d aggravated it.”

Siobhan pictured here after her final radiotherapy treatment. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan pictured here after her final radiotherapy treatment. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “But it started to worry me, so I booked a doctor’s appointment.”

At her appointment, Siobhan was referred for further tests but was told there was a nine-month waiting list.

She said: “In the end, I decided to go private and paid £200 for an ultrasound. It was there that medics said they couldn’t tell what it was, but thought it might be cancerous and advised I would need a biopsy to find out.”

With her lump now suspected as cancer, Siobhan was considered a high priority and went in for her biopsy on the NHS on June 22, 2021.

She said: “When I got the results, I half expected it to be a cyst or something benign. Even though I was concerned about it, I still didn’t expect it to be anything too bad.”

To Siobhan’s shock, she was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer.

Siobhan underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “I was so upset. It was fast growing, and the lump was now over 2cm in size. Doctors scheduled me in for surgery the following week, it all happened very fast.”

In July, Siobhan, who has a boyfriend, went under the knife for a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous mass in her left breast.

She said: “As I recovered from the op, my consultant informed me that the next step would be chemotherapy, but said there was a chance it could affect my fertility.”

Siobhan first thought the bump on her chest was a pimple. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan first thought the bump on her chest was a pimple. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “So, before I started the treatment, I had egg retrieval in case I became infertile after the chemo.”

In August, Siobhan started chemotherapy, which she says was gruelling.

She said: “I found it very hard. After the first round, I started to lose my hair and the treatment just wiped me out. I was so poorly.”

Siobhan is now cancer free. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan is now cancer free. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “Even though I had known I would lose my hair, I didn’t expect it to affect me as much as it did, so I bought a wig to help me feel a bit more like myself.

“My doctor decided to change my treatment slightly, so I had chemo more frequently in lower doses and that helped me a lot.

“I had 12 rounds of chemo before stopping in December 2021. Then, in the New Year, I had two weeks of radiotherapy.”

Siobhan was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer. (Collect/PA Real Life)

While Siobhan was technically cancer free after the surgery, the further treatment was preventative as she was at high risk of her cancer returning.

She said: “The treatment did its job and I got the all-clear in spring this year. Since then, I’ve been on a trial which screens my blood every few weeks to check for cancer cells. So far, everything has come back clear.

“As difficult as it was, I’m so thankful to now be on the other side of treatment and I’m now focussing on improving my fitness levels as I went back to work in March.”

The now 24-year-old had an egg retrieval before starting chemotherapy. (Collect/PA Real Life)
The now 24-year-old had an egg retrieval before starting chemotherapy. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “All the NHS staff who treated me were so supportive and helpful, I’m very thankful to them too.”

Siobhan will need to go for annual check-ups to make sure the cancer does not return and is now keen to raise awareness of breast cancer in young women.

She said: “I never thought that I could be diagnosed with cancer so young, it was such a shock to me and my family.”

Siobhan lost her hair after her first round of chemo. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan lost her hair after her first round of chemo. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “I want to encourage young women to check their breasts for lumps regularly because you really don’t know what could happen.

“I’m unlucky to have got cancer but, in a way, I am also lucky that my lump was clearly visible and I was able to get a private scan quickly. I dread to think what could have happened if it had gone undetected.

“I had a scare just last week when I thought I’d found another lump and went to get it checked out. Thankfully, it was nothing to worry about, but it has made me realise that the fear will always be with me.”

Siobhan is raising awareness to encourage other young women to check their breasts for lumps. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan is raising awareness to encourage other young women to check their breasts for lumps. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “If I can encourage other people to check for lumps then I’ve achieved my goal. I just don’t want other people going through the same ordeal as I have been through.”

Nikki Barraclough, Executive Director at Prevent Breast Cancer, says that as well as causing delays in breast cancer diagnosis, the pandemic has had an impact on research.

She said: “Now more than ever we need to continue to fund research into the prevention of breast cancer so we can stop this disease before it starts, whilst continuing to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms.

“It’s this type of awareness raising that saved Siobhan’s life.”

Siobhan’s lump was visible on her chest. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan’s lump was visible on her chest. (Collect/PA Real Life)

And a spokesperson for the Teenage Cancer Trust warned of the devastating affect of the disease in young people.

She said: “Cancer is far less likely to affect young people than older adults – but when it does it can have a devastating impact – so being able to spot potential warning signs that could lead to an earlier diagnosis really can make a difference.

“There is a concerningly low awareness of the most common warning signs of cancer in the 18-24 age range, and this could be one of the reasons it takes longer for young people to be diagnosed with cancer than older adults. But because cancer in younger age groups is considered rare, it could also be that GPs and other healthcare professionals are less likely to suspect cancer and refer young people with symptoms on for further investigation.”

Siobhan wore a wig after losing her hair during chemo. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Siobhan wore a wig after losing her hair during chemo. (Collect/PA Real Life)

They added: “Listen to your body and if you feel that something isn’t right seek medical help.  It probably isn’t cancer, but it’s always best to check, so book an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns. If you don’t feel like you’re getting the answers you need keep going back, because if a patient consistently presents with concerns, healthcare professionals should listen and take these seriously.”

To learn more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and how to check for it, visit www.preventbreastcancer.org.uk

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting