Before she died, the Girls Aloud star said in her memoir that she hoped going public with her diagnosis might help save other women from going through what she did.
Entertainment reporter @gemmapeplow
Monday 6 September 2021 11:50, UK
Breast cancer charities are sharing details of warning signs to look out for and advice on how women can make checks following the death of Sarah Harding.
The Girls Aloud star died on Sunday, aged 39, just over a year after she revealed she had been diagnosed with the disease in 2020.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 15% of all new cases, and about one in eight women are diagnosed with it during their lifetime, according to NHS statistics.
Before she died, Harding released her memoir, Hear Me Out. In it, she spoke of being scared to go public with her diagnosis – but how she ultimately realised her story could help save lives.
A post shared by Sarah Harding (@sarahnicoleharding)
“Please girls – please everyone – don’t let anything get in your way – get checked out if you’re worried about something,” she wrote.
“Of course, I can’t know for sure, but I believe that if I’d got things moving with appointments and check-ups faster than I did, I’d probably be in a better place than I am now.
“I think I would have had more options for treatment, and certainly less spread of disease. It’s a bloody hard pill to swallow, but the best I can hope for is that my experience might encourage other people to get themselves sorted as soon as possible.”
Now, following her death, charities are sharing advice about breast cancer signs and symptoms.
How to check
A post shared by Pink Ribbon Foundation (@pinkribbonfoundation)
The Pink Ribbon Foundation was among those commemorating Harding on social media, sharing her mother Marie’s tribute to a “bright and shining star” and writing: “Heartbreaking news regarding @sarahnicoleharding. Another loss due to breast cancer ~ gone too soon.”
“Despite increased use of screening, most signs of breast cancer are picked up via self checking, which is why it’s so important to get into the habit of checking your chest regularly and from an early age,” the organisation says.
“The earlier that breast cancer is diagnosed, the more successful the treatment plan. However, in around 5% of women, breast cancer has already spread when it’s diagnosed.
“Around 35,000 people are estimated to be living with secondary (metastatic) breast [cancer]. Secondary breast cancer is incurable but treatments are available that can relieve symptoms to help people live as long as possible.”
The charity shared advice on how to check for signs and symptoms, saying: “Early detection saves lives.”
For those who want to know more about breast cancer in young people or how to check your chest, please visit our Self-Checkout tool, designed to empower you to get to know your body: https://t.co/TUqQvP8ZO4
CoppaFeel also shared its self check-out tool (above) and wrote: “We exist to ensure everyone has the best chance of early diagnosis, because we know it saves lives. Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family, friends & fans as they navigate this loss.”
Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer UK also shared links to the advice pages on their websites following Harding’s death.
On Cancer Research UK’s website, there are several sections on everything from breast cancer symptoms and diagnosis, to the different types, stages and grades of breast cancer, the treatments available and how to live with the disease. You can find all their information here.
Breast Cancer UK’s advice page includes the following video, which shows how to check for signs of change.
A post shared by Breast Cancer UK (@breastcanceruk)
Breast cancer statistics
According to Cancer Research UK (CRUK), there are some 55,200 new breast cancer cases every year across Britain – about 151 every day. About one in eight women are diagnosed during their lifetime and in rare cases, men can also get the disease.
More than three-quarters of people (76%) survive breast cancer for a decade or more after their diagnosis, the charity’s figures show. But there are still around 11,400 breast cancer deaths in the UK every year. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances of survival.
The exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, the NHS says. While certain factors – such as age, a family history of breast cancer, a previous diagnosis, a previous non-cancerous breast lump, being tall, overweight or obese, and drinking alcohol – are known to increase the risk, the disease can affect any woman, and even men, in some rare cases.
The first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.
Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it is always best to have any lumps or differences checked by a doctor.
The NHS also advises to see a GP for any of the following symptoms:
The NHS says that breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer. However, Harding said she had been in severe pain prior to her diagnosis and was admitted to A&E after calling her local hospital and explaining how many painkillers she had taken.
So it is always best to seek medical advice if you notice any changes.