Breast cancer signs and symptoms as Kelly Hoppen reveals shock diagnosis

·8-min read

Watch: Kelly Hoppen talks candidly about her fear of getting tested for breast cancer before diagnosis

Kelly Hoppen has revealed her breast cancer diagnosis, adding that the news came after eight years of avoiding mammograms.

The former Dragons Den investor and designer, 63, who learned just last month she is all-clear, has now been compelled to share her story to help prevent other women from missing their screenings.

Appearing on Monday's episode of This Morning – after writing about her story in the Daily Mail – Hoppen said, "I'm a really sensible woman but I had the fear of god in going and getting tested for more than eight years.

"I kept putting it off."

After "suddenly" deciding to go, despite not having any symptoms, she was eventually diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). This is when some cells in the lining of the ducts of the breast tissue have started to turn cancerous but have not yet started to spread into the surrounding breast tissue.

Hoppen had the cancer cells removed, as well as the tissue around it.

Read more: Samantha Womack reveals she is breast cancer-free but having ongoing treatment 'as a prevention'

Explaining why she feels so strongly about sharing her fear, she said, "I can't be the only person that feels this way.

"Since the piece came out this morning I've had hundreds of women picking up the phone."

Hoppen also admitted, "I knew that if I went [to a mammogram] and I was checked and they found something they would be able to do something, but I still didn't go – like a child, I didn't want to know."

She explained that even when she was at the point of having an MRI and doctors thought something could be wrong, she still wanted to walk away, and it was her husband John who had to talk her through it.

Hoppen was advised to have the BRCA gene test (genes that raise your risk of cancer if they become altered) and if it was positive, she was planning to have a double mastectomy (both breasts removed) – but it turned out she didn't carry the gene.

When asked by Alison Hammond how the experience has changed her, she replied, "I'm not going to stress about small things. When I say I live life to the full every day I do. I love my work, I love life, every day I wake up and say 'Today is a good day.'

"It's different, I'm aware of it every day, I see the scar, I can never not think about it."

Sat beside Hoppen, Dr Sara said, "Routine breast screening is so important, it saves 1,300 lives every year in the UK," before going on to do a live examination.

Kelly Hoppen, who has shared her breast cancer story. (Getty Images)
Kelly Hoppen has shared her 'cautionary tale' to help others who are fearful of breast cancer screenings. (Getty Images)

In her Daily Mail article, Hoppen said that she could not believe her "own stupidity" after ignoring the routine invitations for so many years.

"It was a foolish thing to do, which is why I am writing this now: it’s a cautionary tale, a warning to others, not to be too frightened, too harried by the demands of work to go to your appointments," she wrote.

She also said that her mother had breast cancer when she was her age.

Hoppen acknowledged it was only due to her executive assistant and personal assistant that she eventually went to an appointment in September.

"(My doctor) explained that I’d been very fortunate indeed: DCIS is the very mildest form of cancer," she explained, adding, "I was hugely fortunate. Although I’d neglected my check-ups, I was lucky that my cancer was detected early.

"Had it not been, I might have faced a less happy outcome. Actually, I might not be here writing this cautionary tale now."

Hoppen explained there was just a 10 to 15% chance the cancer will return, but was clear she would never miss a mammogram again. "I have my next one booked for September and you can be assured that I’ll be there," she said.

A BAFTA Tribute:
Deidre Sanders, aka 'Dear Deidre', also shared her breast cancer story. (Getty Images)

Many celebrities have helped to raise awareness about breast cancer over the years and encouraged others to check their breasts.

Deidre Sanders, for example, shared last year that she had been diagnosed with high grade ductal carcinoma in situ after missing a routine mammogram, and that she was due to have treatment.

The 77-year-old explained how eventually going to see her doctor quickly led her to being referred for a mammogram and ultrasound scan through the NHS.

"I tend to have tense shoulders but I realised the ache seemed to be spreading into my right breast. I must have let at least a month pass while I ­wondered, 'Is it anything to worry about? Is it just muscular? I am 77, after all, is it just the aches and pains of getting older?'," she told The Sun.

"I finally got round to calling our GP practice a ­fortnight before I was due to go on holiday. She saw me in person that afternoon, thought she could feel a difference in the right breast and put me on the NHS two-week cancer pathway."

Read more: The different types of breast cancers as 'Dear Deidre' Sanders shares diagnosis

There are nearly 56,000 new cases of breast cancer each year, according to Cancer Research UK. While this might seem daunting, there is also a 76% survival rate, with a good chance of recovery if it's diagnosed early enough.

All women who are 50-70 years-old are invited to breast cancer screening every three years (those over 70 can also arrange an appointment through their GP or local screening unit), to help boost early detection.

As well as attending routine mammograms, checking for symptoms yourself can also help with alerting your doctor and spotting it early.

Read more: Sarah Beeny, Olivia Newton-John and celebs who have shared their breast cancer story

Breast cancer symptoms

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. According to charity Coppafeel!, symptoms include:

  • Changes in skin texture (including puckering and dimpling)

  • Swelling of the armpit and around the collarbone

  • Lumps and thickening around the breast

  • Constant or unusual pain in the breast or armpit

  • Nipple discharge

  • A sudden or unusual change in size or shape

  • Nipple inversion or nipples that change direction

  • A rash or crusting of the nipple or surrounding areas

Breast cancer self-check. (Getty Images)
Make sure you look and feel when checking for breast cancer symptoms. (Getty Images)

Breast cancer early detection

Coppafeel! recommends checking your breasts as part of your monthly routine.

While the condition usually affects older people, the charity advises you are never too young to start checking.

All genders also have breast tissue, which develops at a young age. While it is more common in women, it can affect anyone.

“By checking on a regular basis, you will also build confidence of knowing what is normal for you each month. Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t worry if you’re not feeling confident straight away," the website states.

It might be a good idea to check at different times each month so you can discover how your boobs change because of hormonal fluctuations.

With about one in eight women diagnosed with the condition during their lifetime, the NHS states that there's a good chance of recovery if detected at an early stage.

Read more: Cervical Screening Awareness Week: 12 things people wish they knew about smear tests

How to check your breasts

The NHS recommends looking at your breasts and feeling each breast and armpit, up to your collarbone. This might be easier to do in the bath or shower, using the soapy water to make the process a little easier.

Alternatively, you could look in the mirror, swapping between having your arms by your side and having them raised.

Before checking, it's important to remember that everyone's breasts are different, whether you might be on your period (which can make them tender and lumpy), post-menopause (which can make them feel softer) or have one larger than the other.

Read more: Testicular Cancer Awareness Month: 'Biggest balls in UK' grace billboard

Woman checking breasts. (Getty Images)
Use a mirror to help when checking your breasts. (Getty Images)

The NHS Breast Screening Programme has produced a five-point plan, making it easier than ever to know what you’re looking out for.

The five simple points are:

  • Know what's normal for you

  • Look at your breasts and feel them

  • Know what changes to look for

  • Report any changes without delay

  • Attend your routine screening if you're 50 or over

When to get help for breast cancer symptoms

If you do feel something, you don't necessarily need to be alarmed, as breast changes can happen for any reason, with most lumps not being cancerous.

However, if you experience unusual breast changes and you're not sure of the cause, it's still important to book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible to rule out breast cancer. And if it is detected, you'll benefit from early diagnosis and treatment can be planned as quickly as possible.

To help with easily adding self-checks into your routine, use Coppafeel!'s regular boob check reminder. For more information, see the NHS's website page on breast cancer.

For support you can call Breast Cancer Now on 0808 800 6000.

Additional reporting PA.