A top breast cancer nurse from Wrexham has urged women to be vigilant for early signs of the devastating disease as they get older.
Staff and patients at Spire Yale Hospital, Wrexham, rallied to support a fundraising effort for Breast Cancer Awareness.
Senior nurse Heather Stephens organised the Pink it Up information and coffee morning with a fundraising goal of £500 which she said they were on target to achieve thanks to dozens of generous donations of home-baked cakes and raffle prizes.
The morning-long event, for which many staff wore pink for the day, was held in the Spire Yale Hospital conservatory in aid of Breast Cancer Care which is encouraging people to raise funds and hold fun activities.
According to Heather, it was imperative that even in their later years women check themselves for lumps and other abnormalities as often as they did when they were younger.
Heather, 57, who has been a nurse for nearly 40 years, delivered a talk reinforcing the need for women and men to consult their GP immediately if they suffer pain or discover any abnormality in their breast or underarm area.
But she stressed that not every lump is a sign of cancer.
Most women who present with breast pain or having discovered a swelling in their breast do not have a tumour.
She said: “One of the most rewarding parts of my job is to be able to tell someone that there is nothing serious to worry about, that their condition can be easily treated and is not life-threatening.”
She said breast pain was a common symptom among women of all ages and often it could be the result of something as simple as an ill-fitting bra or dietary factors. For instance studies have shown excesses of fats and caffeine have been linked to breast pain.
But she added: “Nevertheless, it is extremely important that people get anything untoward checked out as quickly as possible.”
Heather sees many women who have been referred to the team having developed benign breast cysts which can be treated quickly and effectively.
She runs a Breast Cancer Support Group which meets at the hospital every two to three months offering support, advice and information sharing for patients, their families and friends, as well as talks and recreational sessions.
She joined Spire Yale Hospital – part of the Spire private health care group – four years ago, during which time her role has expanded significantly. As well as working on the wards, Heather is a specialist breast cancer nurse for the hospital and also acts as a ‘cancer link nurse’ liaising with Wrexham Maelor Hospital medical teams to ensure there is effective co-ordination and communication for patients transferred between Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Spire Yale.
She said the chances of women contracting breast cancer increase drastically as they get older, from one in every 2,000 women in the under 29s age group to one in every 50 in the up to 49s and one in every 13 women aged up to 69.
Heather said: “They are quite stark figures and that is one of the key reasons why professional bodies are now pushing for the screening of women to be extended to include older age groups.
“So it is vital that women continue to check themselves for lumps and other abnormalities even in later years.”
She said she wanted to thank all her fellow staff, patients and friends of the hospital who supported the coffee morning.
She added: “Events like this not only raise awareness about breast cancer and the devastating effects it can have on families, but they are also a valuable social occasion where people can get together, talk and have a little fun. I want to thank everyone, including our own Spire Yale Hospital kitchen team, who has donated gifts, bought pastries or baked pink iced cupcakes to help make this wonderful occasion happen.
“We have had so many raffle prize donations we can hardly fit them all on the table and all the cakes are just delicious. Thank you to everyone for their unstinting support.”
Heather has previously helped raise hundreds of pounds for cancer research including through completing the overnight 26 mile London Moonwalk with her student daughter, Claire, 24, in which they raised £800 for Walk the Walk the cancer charity.