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21 years later, Jayne got a secondary breast cancer diagnosis

Jayne endured years of intense back pain before discovering that she had secondary breast cancer, 21 years after her initial diagnosis in 2002.

How did your primary diagnosis come about? 

After a mammogram showed microcalcifications (white spots) in my right breast, I had surgery and got the all-clear. A few months later, I felt a lump in the same breast but I was reassured it was only a cyst.  

At my next mammogram, the microcalcifications were still there and the ‘cyst’ was as big as a large grape. I had a biopsy and could tell that something was wrong by the look on the surgeon’s face. 

At age 48, I was told I had stage 2 grade 2 breast cancer and needed a lumpectomy, node removal, a mastectomy and hormone treatment.    

Did the hospital tell you about secondary breast cancer and its symptoms? 

No, they didn't. My breast consultant told me that secondary cancer pain is more noticeable at night, but that's all I remember. So I did a lot of Googling to know what to look for.   

After I was discharged, I had yearly check-up appointments. But these stopped after 3 years and they gave me a direct line to call the hospital about any worries. 

I always knew that secondary breast cancer was a possibility, but after 20 years I rarely thought about it. 

What symptoms of secondary breast cancer did you experience?  

In 2017, I started getting aches and pains in my lower back and went for an X-ray. It showed bone spurs and osteoarthritis that were causing sciatica. 

6 years later, I hurt my back and was in so much pain I could hardly walk. After an X-ray, they asked me to get in touch immediately, and I just knew the cancer had come back. 

What happened next? 

I immediately got an appointment at the breast clinic and the wheels were set in motion. A biopsy found a local recurrence in the skin over my breast implant. I couldn't feel it, but the experts could. Then, a separate CT scan showed that the breast cancer had spread to my bones. 

How did your diagnosis impact you? 

The last few months have been horrendous. At first, I couldn't sleep. I felt very ill, and I was incredibly sad. But with help from my amazing husband, family and friends, I came to terms with what was happening. I'm sad I'm probably going to go sooner than I want, but if I can get a few more healthy years with my family, I’ll have done okay. And we have 3 gorgeous grandchildren I never thought I'd see.  

And I've had a CT nuclear bone scan, which showed that the cancer is now stable. I'm so relieved.

What advice would you give someone worried about secondary breast cancer? 

I should have been more persistent with my GP - I was fobbed off several times with painkillers, exercise sheets and physio consultations. And I'm not sure they remembered I'd had breast cancer.  

And I'd say take photos of your boob after primary breast cancer and get to know its feel and shape. That way you’ll know if anything's changed. The breast clinic told me they could feel a lump, but I wasn't aware of it.

What would you change about secondary breast cancer awareness?  

I think I should have been made more aware of the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer and been given more information about recurrence in general. 

It's important to see your dentist regularly. If you need dental treatment it can delay some cancer treatment for at least a month.

Know the symptoms

Most breast cancers don’t come back, but sometimes they can return, so it’s important to know what signs to look out for. If you spot anything you’re worried about, make sure to get it checked.

Secondary breast cancer symptoms

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