A woman has credited her hair extensions for saving her life after they helped her discover a lump which turned out to be breast cancer.
Laura Larkin, 25, from Livingston, West Lothian, was combing her 18 inch long hair with her fingers when she felt a hard lump in her right breast, which she’d never noticed before.
“My hair extensions at the time were really lovely and were long enough to reach the bottom of my boobs,” the recruitment consultant recalls.
“I’d just got out of the shower and I was running my fingers through my hair when I reached the ends of them and brushed past my breast.”
“I felt this really hard lump which I'd never noticed before at the bottom of my right breast.”
Though she thought she would be too young to have cancer, Laura decided to get it checked out with her GP two days later in May 2018.
While her doctor thought it was fatty tissue, he sent her for a scan to be safe.
But the scan uncovered abnormalities and following a biopsy Laura was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, just six days later.
“I was in complete shock,” she said.
“I couldn't believe what they were saying.
“I was only 23 - how could this be happening to me?”
Laura underwent a lumpectomy on July 6 2018 where doctors removed a 9mm lump from her right breast.
By the time doctors removed the lump, her cancer had progressed from Stage 2 to an aggressive Stage 3.
Thankfully doctors managed to remove the entire lump before the cancer had spread and Laura was told she would need to attend yearly mammogram appointments.
A mammogram in July 2019 showing no signs of the cancer returning, but in November 2019 more lumps were uncovered in equally unusual circumstances.
Laura was taking a shower when the shower suddenly malfunctioned, sending boiling water all over her chest and leaving the skin on her breasts sore to touch.
The following day Laura’s skin blistered and started to fall off so she went to hospital where she was treated for second degree burns.
But as she was changing the dressing on her right breast in December last year, Laura was surprised to feel another lump.
“I was in total shock - I thought I'd beaten cancer, the mammograms were coming back clear and I thought I was going to be ok.
“But when I felt another lump, my heart just stopped. I knew the cancer was back.”
Although her doctor suspected the lump could have been caused by scar tissue from her lumpectomy, scans revealed there were three new lumps.
Gene tests revealed Laura was carrying the BRCA2 gene from her mother's side - commonly known as the breast cancer gene.
Doctors advised that Laura would need to have a single mastectomy otherwise the cancer could spread or come back again and she had the surgery to remove her right breast on January 17 2020.
Tests have shown the cancer has not spread to her bones or vital organs but Laura has to wait until a little longer to find out if it has spread to her lymph nodes.
She will have chemotherapy and radiotherapy before reconstructive surgery.
Despite knowing the mastectomy was the best option for her, Laura says it has affected her confidence.
“I looked in the mirror after my mastectomy and I was horrified - tears were just streaming down my face, I thought I looked disgusting.
“I've lost my breast so young and I've been left with this awful ugly life changing scar.”
Laura has decided to open up about her experience to encourage other women to be breast aware.
"If sharing my story makes other women check their breasts, then maybe I can prevent someone else going through what I'm going through and save them from this pain.”
And Laura is grateful her hair extensions alerted her to the breast cancer initially.
“As the lump was in a weird place under my breast, it's not really somewhere that I would have felt it ordinarily if I wasn't playing with my hair.
“Considering I was booked in for a lumpectomy within a week of them diagnosing me with cancer and it had already progressed to Stage 3, it's scary to think what could have happened to me if I hadn't found it when I did.
“I literally rang my hairdresser and told her that my hair extensions had saved my life!”