A POLICE officer has revealed how she caught her breast cancer early which potentially saved her life thanks to her body armour.
PC Samantha Woods says there were no other warning signs and she would not have known there was a problem had it not been for the protective clothing.
Earlier this year, the 33-year-old complained of a slight ache in her left breast every time she put on her high-vis body armour.
PC Woods put it down to the tight-fitting and even asked her sergeant if she could get permission to order a new one.
She decided to tell her friends while on a weekend away in Krakow, Poland celebrating her birthday in May after the pain persisted – and they encouraged her to get it checked.
After being referred to Pinderfields Hospital, a consultant noticed a small indentation to the side of her nipple.
She then had an MRI and several biopsies which confirmed on June 28 the officer had early-stage breast cancer.
The shock diagnosis saw PC Woods undergo gruelling surgery known as lumpectomy on Wednesday to remove the tumour which lasted three-and-a-half-hours.
PC Woods, who is based in Normanton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, will now need to wait an agonising few weeks before she knows if the operation was a success.
She says she would "never have known" if it wasn't for the body armour – worn under the yellow tac vest – which squeezes your torso.
She said: "I just kept thinking, 'what if I never wore the body armour? How long would it have been before I'd have noticed?' It could have been so much worse.
"I put that body armour on almost every day still getting that same ache but I can't believe that potentially it had saved my life."
If the operation is successful, PC Woods will next undergo a course of daily radiotherapy treatment for up to five weeks at St James Hospital in Leeds.
She is now calling on men and women to check their breasts, highlighting the disease can affect people of all ages.
"I just want to share my story because there doesn't have to be any lumps or bumps that you notice," she added. "I had no visible signs. No warning signs of breast cancer.
I put that body armour on almost every day still getting that same ache but I can't believe that potentially it had saved my life
"I suppose I was lucky that I wear body armour and that gave me the sign. I've never had any health problems. I've never broken a bone in my body.
"All I can do is urge both men and women to do regular checks at home.
"It only takes a few minutes when you are in the shower or getting dressed and if there is anything at all please please get it checked out.
"Sometimes things are not noticeable, they weren't for me. It can happen to anyone.
"I'm just starting this journey but I will give it everything."
PC Woods had worn her body armour since starting in the force in February 2018.
She noticed an aching feeling in her left breast in February this year but it disappeared when she took her armour off.
"It's hard to explain how it felt. Just an annoying feeling really. Not pain. I just assumed that it was just the tightness of it," she added.
"I left it because every time it came to rest days it went away. Every now and again I'd get a shooting pain in it too.
"I mentioned it to my sergeant and asked how I go about trying to order a new one as it was hurting.
Breast cancer; The facts
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and 99% of cases affect women.
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
More than 80% of breast cancers are in women over the age of 50.
Every year, around 11,500 people die from breast cancer in the UK.
There are an estimated 691,000 breast cancer survivors currently living here in Britain.
More than half of breast cancer survivors struggled with anxiety at the end of treatment, while a third battled depression.
Source: Breast Cancer Org.uk
"I am not one for visiting the doctors or anything so I just left it thinking if I changed the body armour it would go away.
"I went away with five amazing friends for my birthday to Krakow. I don't know how the conversation came about but I was talking about how I needed new body armour.
"All my friends are fellow police officers or prison officers. Two of the group had problems last year with finding a lump in their breast so questioned if I could feel anything.
"I said I couldn't but they told me I should go to the doctors and get it checked out just in case.
"On May 13 when I got back while waiting to start a late shift I thought 'oh I'll ring the doctors'."
PC Woods initially revealed her diagnosis on Twitter, writing: "Not the easiest of posts, but this is me now waiting for surgery.
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"It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks having been told I have Breast Cancer. PLEASE PLEASE check your breasts! If there is anything I gain from this post, it's that one person who checks.
"At 33 it's not something I expected to hear. But it's caught early which is thanks to my body armour! I would never have known if it wasn't for that.
"No lumps, no nothing. So if you have any concerns, please get checked out."
In other news, The Sun's Deborah James opens up about the big C, admitting that the side effects is what really needs to be discussed.
And a mum has revealed how she drank four litres of water a day to keep her unborn baby alive after her waters broke at 12 weeks.
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