'M&S advice helped me spot breast cancer's symptoms'

A FORMER Marks & Spencer worker says she owes her life to a training video highlighting the signs of breast cancer.

Christine Kelly said that over her career she became used to the occasional video health tutorial, and did not even realise she was taking in the information.

But several years on it was those brief training films about symptoms that saved her life.

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The 49-year-old's story comes as a leading breast cancer charity in Edinburgh publishes research showing huge gaps in the knowledge of women when it comes to signs of the disease.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which has a research laboratory in the city's Western General Hospital, also found that there were huge awareness inequalities between different classes.

Ms Kelly, who now works for Edinburgh University, said: "We would have these training sessions every week, and it went from being about how to handle clothes and towels to breast cancer. I did wonder at the time why this was part of training, and didn't think it would apply to me at all.

"But I watched them, and over the years the information drip-fed in. It was something M&S were keen to do. They wanted staff to be healthy so showing these videos was a good way to do that."

So Ms Kelly, who lives in Mountcastle, took the advice of the health campaign and checked herself regularly – and eight years ago she found a lump.

"I went straight to the GP, who wasn't sure at the time if it was worth pursuing, but I knew from regular checks that it was a new lump and pushed to be seen straight away.

If it hadn't been for that knowledge, I probably wouldn't be here today.

"The cancer was hard, I had two young children, but I caught it early, was treated and I've been clear ever since."

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She said today that it should not be down to private companies such as M&S to prompt women into action on breast cancer. And her views were echoed by Breakthrough, who said health inequalities in relation to awareness had to be addressed at once.

Its research in the Capital found more than a quarter of women in the lowest social economic rating could not name a single symptom of breast cancer. In addition, only three per cent thought a change in the appearance of their breasts was a symptom of the illness, which killed 136 women in the Lothians last year.

Audrey Birt, Breakthrough's director in Scotland, said: "While more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before, getting an early diagnosis is still central to achieving the best possible outcome. This message is important for all women but our survey shows breast awareness varies across social class.

"We are calling on the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to do more to educate women in hard-to-reach groups, women in areas of social deprivation.

"It is essential that women in such areas have the same levels of breast awareness knowledge as women in more affluent areas and therefore the same opportunity to get that vital early diagnosis."

A spokeswoman for M&S said: "Looking after the health and wellbeing of our colleagues is an important part of our employee benefits package at M&S and we offer routine breast screenings to female permanent staff and female partners of employees between the ages of 40-70."


• Lumps appearing in breast or armpit

• Sudden change in appearance of nipple, such as inversion

• Nipple discharge

• Rash or crusting of the nipple

• Armpit and breast pain

• www.breakthrough.org.uk

• www.marksandspencer.com