'I wouldn't have changed my decision at all'

Emma Duncanwas diagnosed with breast cancer twice in four years, once in each breast.

Her first treatment was a lumpectomy with chemotherapy and Radiotherapy . Her second treatment included a full mastectomy, removing both breasts, followed by reconstructive plastic surgery.

"I asked my GP if there was any screening programme that they could put me into when I was 25, because my mother had died from breast cancer when she was 32. They referred me to the Royal Victoria Infirmary , and I used to come once a year just for a check-up.

"A few years later, I was in the bath and I noticed a lump under my left armpit. I didn't quite know what to make of it; I was quite worried at first. I went to see my GP the next day and he suspected that it might just be a cyst because I was only 28 at the time, but because of my family history they did a referral anyway.

"At the hospital I had an ultrasound , a mammogram and a needle biopsy. When I returned a week later for the results, they confirmed that I did have breast cancer and that I would need to come in for lumpectomy surgery 10 days later.

"I had chemotherapy for six months after my first diagnosis, followed by five weeks of radiotherapy. It was really, really hard. All my hair fell out and it made me feel so ill.

"My husband Graham was great, he tried to support me as best he could throughout it; my sister-in-law was never off the phone, and my best friend Claire was lovely.

"My sister handled it in a very different way; she had watched my mum become very, very poorly and then her older sister was diagnosed. She found it hard to deal with and just couldn't handle coming to see me. She later admitted being terrified that it might be her next.

"The second time I was diagnosed, I had a bigger operation a double mastectomy. The decision to have a mastectomy was quite easy to make for me, the only decision when you've had cancer twice.

"The reality after the event wasvery different. With the reconstructive surgery as well, I knew it would be a long recovery, but I don't think anything prepared me for just how long. I cried every single day because I was so uncomfortable.

"I was referred to a psychologist, who told me I wasn't going mad. Anybody who had been through what I had would be expected to have a few tearful days. Things settled down, then it was just a case of trying to get back to normal.

"Looking back at everything, I wouldn't have changed my decision at all it was definitely for the best.

"I now have check-ups every six months.I see my oncologist, my breast surgeons and the family clinic. I'm seen quite regularly. I see my plastic surgeon, my geneticist and have an ultrasound once a year, plus a blood test every four months as part of the ovarian screening programme. The Macmillan Breast Care nurses ring me up every once in a while to keep me up-to-date and to check that I'm alright. I'm very well looked after!

"Now I just want to stay cancer-free. I've done as much as I possibly can to prevent it from coming back or getting a new cancer. I didn't quite make it after my first diagnosis, but I'd like to hit my five-year point.

"My advice to other women would be to speak to your breast care nurse or go on the Cancer Research UK or Cancer Care websites. There are so many recognised sources of information. The internet is full of horror stories, so make sure you get as much information, but from reputable sources."

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016