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'It saved my life' - Breast cancer survivor urges women to attend screenings

PUBLISHED: 19:00 03 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:17 04 March 2019

Breast cancer survivor, Heather Staff  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Breast cancer survivor, Heather Staff Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A breast cancer survivor is pleading for women to attend their screenings as figures revealed that more than 18,000 women in Suffolk aged 53 to 70 missed their scans as of last year.

Heather Staff, who lives in Ipswich with her husband Mike, was one of tens of thousands of women in Suffolk and Essex who was not invited to her final routine breast screening due to a computer glitch.

She said that despite this, she was “one of the lucky ones” when she was diagnosed last summer after a tumour was found in her breast – the day before her 74th birthday.

“I had been thinking for a while that I must have surely been due a mammogram, so when I got a letter of apology sent through last summer I didn’t hesitate before going for my final screening,” she said.

Despite the scan being five years later than it should have been, Mrs Staff said: “It saved my life. I know other people who haven’t been so lucky.”

Heather and Mike went through a troubling time last summer when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Picture: HEATHER STAFFHeather and Mike went through a troubling time last summer when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Picture: HEATHER STAFF

She is now urging other women not to be afraid of going for their scans.

NHS figures showed that of the 90,000 women eligible in Suffolk, 71,000 went to their screenings - meaning nearly 20,000 women chose not to attend.

Despite this Suffolk has the highest percentage of women choosing to attend their screenings in the east of England – 79.4%, which is significantly higher than Essex’s 73.5%.

Suffolk is also above the national average of 74.9%.

Heather Staff is urging other women to attend vital breast cancer screenings. Picture: HEATHER STAFFHeather Staff is urging other women to attend vital breast cancer screenings. Picture: HEATHER STAFF

Breast cancer survivor Margaret Davies lost four of her 11 siblings to the disease and she says this was what drove her to attend a screening which discovered her tumour.

Ms Davies, who lives in Holbrook, said: “In 2018 I had a letter inviting me to go for a scan, but I thought as I had been clear all my life I would not go.

“However, a little voice in my head kept telling me to go. So I went and lo and behold, they found a small tumour.

“I was devastated – I’ve lost two brothers and two sisters to the disease.”

Heather Staff with her husband, Mike    Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHeather Staff with her husband, Mike Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

She had surgery, radiotherapy and she is now on medication for the next 10 years.

Of the scans, she said: “There is nothing to worry about, the procedure is over and done with in a few seconds. And it’s really not worth thinking about what may happen if you don’t go.

“I’ve seen friends go one after the other – it’s a devastating disease.”

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