Sarah Ferguson has opened up about struggling with the paranoia that she’s going to ‘get cancer somewhere else’ and waking up at night in a panic.
The Duchess of York, 64, spoke about her health concerns following a breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy as she made her debut as a Loose Women panellist today.
The mother-of-two was on the programme to launch its inaugural ‘Don’t Skip Your Screening’ campaign, highlighting the importance of attending mammogram appointments.
‘And then of course you start four in the morning syndrome,’ she told Christine Lampard, Coleen Nolan, and Brenda Edwards on the pre-recorded one-off special.
‘You know that moment when you suddenly wake up and go “oh I’m sure I’ve got cancer somewhere else… I’m gonna go and ring my doctor”.
The Duchess of York, 64, spoke about her health concerns following a breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy as she made her debut as a Loose Women panellist today
‘I’m getting over that but it’s only been a few months since I’ve had the operation, so I’m just beginning to sit up straight.’
In a more lighthearted moment, Sarah also joked about the reconstructive surgery she had following her single mastectomy where ‘they remove all of your fat’, which she thought ‘was going to be great’ – to recreate a breast.
‘I thought, at last!’ she quipped.
‘You got a waistline,’ Brenda chipped in.
The Duchess also opened up about feeling grateful that her diagnosis was caught just in time, and navigating the ‘feeling of demise’ at the news.
‘I caught it so early, just in time,’ she added.
‘The real thing is, it’s that terrible fear of “oh no, it won’t happen to me”… and that’s why I want to shout about it. I wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t have gone.’
The mother-of-two was on the programme to launch its inaugural ‘Don’t Skip Your Screening’ campaign, highlighting the importance of attending mammogram appointments
Sarah Ferguson has opened up about struggling with the paranoia that she’s going to ‘get cancer somewhere else’ and waking up in the night in a panic
Prince Andrew’s ex-wife also revealed how she initially almost missed her screening appointment – which caught a ‘shadow’ on the breast that hadn’t been there 18 months prior, at her last mammogram.
However, thanks to her ‘bossy’ older sister, who was visiting from Australia, she decided to go.
‘It was after a bank holiday and it was a Tuesday morning,’ she recounted. ‘And I thought “no, it’s a hot day” and “nah, no, I don’t need to go, I’m sure it’ll all be fine”.
‘I had no symptoms…’
However, her sister insisted and she ended up going. Sarah then stressed the importance of ‘shouting’ about how vital screening is as she urged others not to skip their appointments.
The Duchess added that she’s ‘very grateful’ to the Royal Free Hospital and the NHS, praising their detection systems.
‘I had a shadow, it was like a splat,’ she explained. ‘Eighteen months before, it wasn’t there. So it had come on from the last mammogram to this mammogram.’
Prince Andrew’s ex-wife also revealed how she initially almost missed her screening appointment – which caught a ‘shadow’ on the breast
She also added she will ‘never forget’ her drive from the hospital.
‘Your mind goes into, “oh my god I’ve got to have a mastectomy, and you look it up and it’s all so terrifying and this is what’s going to happen and then I’m not going to see my grandchildren grow up”.
‘That’s what goes through your head… it’s that feeling of demise.’
The royal went on to detail that she calls her breasts ‘Eric’ and ‘Derek’ as a way to cope with the changes in her body.
‘The thing is about Derek, he’s very perky and fabulous,’ Sarah explained. ‘And Eric is sort of down.’
The panelists also discussed working through body image issues and getting their confidence, especially if it’s affected by your health.
Sarah, who has in past being candid about her struggles with disordered eating, admitted that she was recently reflecting on finding photos of herself in the 1980s ‘very pretty’.
‘The other day I was looking back all through the 80s when I was wearing those ridiculous clothes…
‘And I look back and I think actually “you’re very pretty! And you were quite slim and you look lovely” and in 1986 the nation stopped for my wedding, and you know it was a great dress.’
‘But honestly from that moment I had such… self-hatred. So much so.’
Her relationship with her body has evolved, and now, she finds her breasts a ‘badge of office’ because of her operation scars and is ‘proud’ of them.
‘I remember Eugenie at her wedding – and she has a scoliosis scar down her back – and she wore a V-neck wedding dress.
‘And I thought, good for you, you’re wearing your scar.’
She then however joked that if she walked around showing her scar ‘with no clothes on, it would cause a little bit of a front page’.
The Duchess also spoke about telling her ‘incredible’ girls and family how she approached talking them through the screening and diagnosis, keeping them updated on the process after doctors were concerned about the shadows.
She reiterated the importance of getting tested, and urged others to get checked.
‘My father died of prostate cancer, my father died of cancer,’ she said. ‘And dad used to go out on the radio back in those days and early 80s saying “go and get your checks for prostate cancer”.
‘And all his friends used to ring him up and say “Ronald, no one wants to hear from you, shut up”.
Sarah revealed in June that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a successful single mastectomy at King Edward VII’s Hospital in London
In early May, Sarah attended an appointment in London for a mammogram. Rather than being given the all-clear, as expected, the technician explained that a ‘shadow’ could be seen in the breast. Pictured in March, just months before her screening
‘So when I was coming on today, I simply don’t care if anyone likes it or not. If there’s one person that is going to have a fabulous life and see their grandchildren because of us speaking about it, then good for it.’
The programme finished off with a light-hearted segment analysing the pannelists’ handwriting.
Analysis from an expert revealed that the Duchess’s script shows that it’s ‘important for her to be understood’ and that she possesses an ‘unusual sense of humour’ – but struggles with planning and organisation.
Sarah revealed in June that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a successful single mastectomy at King Edward VII’s Hospital in London.
Since then, she has spent time recovering at home at Royal Lodge, Windsor, where she lives with her ex-husband, despite splitting nearly 30 years ago.
The duchess’s cancer nightmare began earlier this year when a routine test first detected something was seriously wrong before the Coronation.
In early May, Sarah attended an appointment in London for a mammogram. Rather than being given the all-clear, as expected, the technician explained that a ‘shadow’ could be seen in the breast.
Given the size of the area, a lumpectomy was ruled out and Sarah was strongly advised to go ahead with a single mastectomy, which would eradicate the shadow of cancerous cells across the breast.
She reiterated the importance of getting tested, and urged others to get checked. Pictured in September
Sarah, who has in past being candid about her struggles with disordered eating, admitted that she was recently reflecting on finding photos of herself in the 1980s ‘very pretty’. Pictured at her wedding to Andrew
The Duchess admitted that she has recently been reflecting on her body image issues as a young woman. Pictured in 1987
Sarah joked about the ‘ridiculous’ outfits she used to wear back in the day. Pictured with Princess Diana in 1987
Sarah was said to be devastated but determined to press ahead with a mastectomy as soon as possible, telling friends she had ‘no choice’ but to go through with the operation.
The Duchess endured a punishing eight-hour operation as surgeons battled breast cancer. Speaking about the gruelling operation during her final episode of the first series of her podcast Tea Talks in August, she revealed that her mastectomy had helped to get over ‘years’ of self-hatred from being compared to Princess Diana.
She said that looking back, she realises she had ‘good legs’ and ‘looked good’, but didn’t ‘like herself’.
‘That was because I think I was always compared to Diana and I think that at the end I sort of believed my own press which is, you know, not too good,’ Fergie explained.
Sarah compare her scar to that of her daughter Eugenie’s – which is from scoliosis – and praised her for showing it off at her wedding
However she said that she had found life after the operation had changed her point of view, adding she now ‘likes herself.’
She also spoke about how she has recovered since the operation, saying she has been doing well.
She said she had started to return to a more active lifestyle over the summer, including walking while holidaying in Scotland to keep in shape.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and affects more than two MILLION women a year
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
It comes from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding tissue it is called ‘invasive’. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in those over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men, though this is rare.
Staging indicates how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.
The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast-growing. High-grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.
Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance, such as genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign.
The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under a microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.
If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest X-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.
- Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
- Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focused on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops them from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
- Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying.
- Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.
How successful is treatment?
The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.
The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 means more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
For more information visit breastcancernow.org or call its free helpline on 0808 800 6000