Dublin woman Linda Burgess (39), of Donaghmede, was a teenager when her family doctor stressed the importance of self-breast examination. “I was about 17 and a little embarrassed at the time,” she recalls, “but now I’m really glad he made me vigilant.” When she was in her 30s, Linda experienced a discharge from her left breast. She went to a doctor (“not my usual one”) and was told the discharge was “probably” due to hormonal factors and that she was “too young” to get cancer. Sensibly, Linda continued to monitor herself, and when two weeks later she felt a small lump in the same breast she told the nurses at the Well Woman Clinic. They referred her to the breast clinic at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, where she was seen by consultant surgeon Professor Arnold Hill, who sent her for a mammogram and an ultrasound. He then asked her to return that afternoon for a needle biopsy.
Shortly after, Linda received the news that she had early-stage, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Within a week, she had had a lumpectomy. Following her surgery at Beaumont, Linda had radiotherapy at St Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar, every weekday for nearly seven weeks. She says her ordeal was made much easier by the love and support of her children and her mother. “My mother was by my side all the way,” she says admiringly. Linda advises all women, especially younger women, to self-check their breasts every month so they know what is normal for them, from which they can easily detect any changes. Professor Hill, who treated Linda, says, “We know from studies that breast cancer, if detected early, has a much more positive survival outcome.”
Linda says she is totally behind the Be Breast Aware: Have a Feel Day campaign, which was launched by Aviva Health Insurance and Breast Cancer Ireland. She was delighted, too, by the launch of the Breast Aware app, which shows women how to perform a self-breast examination (the app also sends a monthly discreet reminder to check their breasts). As to the claim by the doctor she had previously attended (that young women don’t get breast cancer), Linda says, “I was only 33 years old and I got it.”
Unfortunately, in 2013, Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time. Once again under the care of Professor Arnold Hill at Beaumont Hospital, she had a mastectomy and lymph node clearance, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It was a difficult time for her, but thankfully with the love and support she received from family and friends, she got through it and is doing well now.