Be more breast aware, urges nurse saved by early cancer diagnosis

Nurse Katrina Turner, 36, from Ballycastle, Co Antrim is hoping to raise awareness of the importance of self examination after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Nurse Katrina Turner, 36, from Ballycastle, Co Antrim is hoping to raise awareness of the importance of self examination after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

A nurse whose early cancer diagnosis helped save her life is on a mission to make every man and woman in Northern Ireland more breast aware.

Katrina Turner from Co Antrim wants to highlight the importance of self-examination after discovering a lump during a routine personal check.

But the 36-year-old, who underwent surgery, weeks of radiotherapy and will receive hormone treatment for the next five years, was warned the prognosis could have been much worse if she had not been so vigilant.

She said: "My consultant said I was lucky to have found the lump because it was on the inner side of the breast, towards the breast bone and was deep into the tissue.

"But because I had been checking regularly for years, I recognised it was different.

"And that's what I want people to do; look out for changes and seek medical help if they find something of concern."

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Northern Ireland.

Around 1,200 are diagnosed with the disease which claims almost 300 lives every year.

Miss Turner, an orthopaedics nurse at Belfast's Musgrave Park Hospital and well-known singer, was dealt the devastating news that she had stage two invasive lobular carcinoma last October.

Since then, she has documented her entire experience in the blog www.katrinakickingcancer.com to help others facing a similarly daunting journey.

"It's so so important to try to overcome the fear of finding a change in your body, by checking for it, as it really could make all the difference," she added.

"The bottom line is that if I had not been self-checking I may not have found that lump until I was feeling unwell and things could have been much more serious; it would have been bigger and my chances of survival could have been reduced.

"The disease may not have been caught until it was much more advanced.

"It was unbelievably scary to find out that I had the cancer. But early detection does save lives.

"And the advice does not just apply to women. There is no reason why men should not be checking their breasts too."

As well as her public awareness campaign, Miss Turner is also fundraising for the Friends of the Cancer Centre charity which provided crucial support during her treatment at Belfast's City Hospital.

And, as a thank you to the local community which rallied round, she is hosting a Big Day Out in her home town.

The event, which kicks off at Ballycastle sea front from 11am on Saturday July 29, will include a family fun day, artisan food and craft market, barbecue, cake sale, face painting and live music culminating with a concert later in the evening.

For more information log on to katrinakickingcancer.com.