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Hunstanton woman shares cancer story to help others

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A Hunstanton woman, who underwent a double mastectomy following breast cancer, has spoken of her decision not to have reconstruction surgery.

Sarah Coombes says she wants to share her story in order to inspire other women facing the disease.

Sarah found a lump in her right breast just days before her 35th birthday which was found to be a Grade III invasive tumour.

She was treated in the breast unit at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), where she had a double mastectomy before deciding not to have reconstructive surgery.

She is now a trustee of the Flat Friends charity, which works with women who have chosen a similar path and offers fashion advice to them.

Sarah, who underwent surgery three years ago, said that while the diagnosis was a shock, she felt removing her breasts was the best option for her.

She said: “The lump took up most of my breast and there would not be much left behind. In my head the problem was that I had cancer in my breast so the obvious solution was to remove it.

“There was a small bit of me that thought that I didn’t need breasts to be a valuable human being. They didn’t define me.

“I have a very strong gut instinct and I didn’t want to have reconstructive surgery as I felt comfortable with my chest.

“I think it is important for women to feel confident and comfortable with who they are.

“I felt I needed to have the mastectomy as I had cancer but I didn’t want any further operations.

“I am probably more confident now as I can be myself now. I respect anyone’s decision to have reconstruction as I am aware it is up to the individual but I also wanted to share my decision not to have surgery and that it can be positive.”

Sarah now writes a blog with fashion advice to help women in a similar situation.

She added: “My blog has gone really well. I didn’t want anyone else searching for post mastectomy confidence if I could help.

“I have always wanted the blog to be about women finding the confidence to try on different styles and get used to a new body shape.

“I have found that pleated materials and gathered necklines add volume and movement across the chest. There are a lot of different styles that work.”

Amy Burger, a consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon at the QEH, who treated Sarah, said: “Some patients do have a preference of whether they would prefer a lumpectomy or a mastectomy but this is something we discuss in detail with patients.

“The choice to remove a normal breast is a huge undertaking and not something we would routinely suggest. There is no evidence that it improves people’s outcomes but we understand that it gives peace of mind to some patients and we do not underestimate the importance of that.

“I am pleased that Sarah is happy with her outcomes: she has done brilliantly with her Flat Friends Support Group and offering support to women who chose that this is the way forward for them instead of reconstruction.”

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