Mum, 32, diagnosed with breast cancer was ‘too scared’ to ask doctors about disease

A mum said she was “too scared” to ask doctors why she needed a mammogram and a bone scan before she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32.

Kemi Olowe noticed a lump in her right breast but thought it was a blocked milk duct caused by the fact she was breastfeeding her nine-month-old son Samuel.

Since the lump did not go away, she went to see her GP four months later, in January 2018 – but she admitted she never thought it could be cancer.

The mortgage broker from Essex said she “couldn’t feel the lump” even though she could hold it.

The doctor then referred her for an ultrasound scan and the radiologist said it was just milk drying up.

Ms Olowe told the Daily Mail : “I felt I was wasting NHS time, but it felt like it was growing nearer to my armpit.

“In July, I spoke to a female GP over the phone and was sent for another ultrasound. It was the same radiologist doing it. She asked why I was back and, on scanning, said nothing had changed.

“Then a medical student, who was in the room, started asking questions and pointing things out on the screen. I’m so grateful for that student – she might have saved my life as I went immediately for a biopsy.”

She said she was “too scared to ask” why she needed a mammogram and then a bone scan, but she now knows that there is a risk for breast cancer to spread to the bones.

Two weeks later, the woman and her husband Peter, 37, saw a consultant, and she was diagnosed with a 6cm stage 3 tumour after two ultrasound scans.

Stage 3 usually means the cancer is larger and may have started to spread to surrounding tissues and/or the lymph nodes.

She needed a mastectomy – surgery to remove a breast – as well as six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy.

Despite feeling down after the diagnosis as she was worried for her son’s future, the woman decided to put on a brave face and do all she could to fight the disease.

Within two weeks of her diagnosis, Ms Olowe had five lymph nodes in her right armpit removed.

The woman and her husband also went to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Assisted Conception Unit in London to talk about IVF and freezing embryos for a sibling for Samuel.

Ms Olowe was supported by Breast Cancer Now and in turn, she helped the charity with its Tickled Pink Campaign.

Her message ‘I am a beautiful masterpiece’ was printed on fundraising T-shirts and will be available to buy at Asda stores this month.

Nicola Roche, a consultant breast cancer surgeon at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said 80 per cent of breast cancer cases occur in women over 50s – but younger women usually have “more aggressive cancers”.

For this reason, it is important to check your breast regularly to check for any changes, Miss Roche added.

She explained: “When you’re in your 20s and 30s, if you find a lump it’s most likely to be a fibroadenoma [a benign, slow-growing, solid breast lump]; in your 40s it’s likely to be a cyst; and only in your 50s is it more likely to be cancer.”

The expert added: “Young Black women have a lower incidence of breast cancer, but when they get it, it tends to be more aggressive.

“Women from ethnic minority groups may also present late with breast cancer symptoms because of socio-economic and cultural reasons.”

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, explains the NHS.

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50, but younger women can also get breast cancer.

Around 55,000 women and 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, according to charity Breast Cancer Now.

Every year around 11,500 women and 85 men die from breast cancer in the country – that’s nearly 1,000 deaths each month.