Sarah, Duchess of York has urged women not to miss their mammogram screenings as she made her debut on Loose Women, saying she “would not be sitting here if I hadn’t have gone”.
The duchess took a turn as a panellist on the ITV chat show on Thursday to help launch its Don’t Skip Your Screening breast cancer campaign.
Earlier this year, the 64-year-old underwent an eight-hour single mastectomy operation and reconstruction after discovering she had an early form of breast cancer during a routine mammogram, which she almost missed.
We’re thrilled that our clinical nurse specialist Addie will be joining the @loosewomen panel today alongside @SarahTheDuchess. Addie will be sharing expert information and support about breast checking, and myth-busting about mammograms.
— Breast Cancer Now (@BreastCancerNow) November 2, 2023
It was the duchess’s first time on television since revealing her diagnosis and she spoke openly to presenters Christine Lampard, Coleen Nolan and Brenda Edwards about her initial fears that she would not see her grandchildren grow up.
“I really want to shout about this. Don’t skip your screening appointment, because I would not be sitting here if I hadn’t have gone,” she said.
The late Queen’s former daughter-in-law added: “The drive from the Royal Free Hospital, I’ll never forget, because of course your mind goes into ‘Oh my goodness, 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.”
The duchess, who was wearing a long, pink leather-style coat, was given her own Loose Women mug branded with her name.
Lampard told her: “Duchess, Sarah. You are official now because you have a mug.”
The duchess quipped: “I am very pleased. I quite enjoy being a Loose Woman”.
She recounted her diagnosis, saying she had no symptoms and almost missed her mammogram until her sister convinced her to go, and revealed that the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes.
“Mine wasn’t a lump. I had a shadow. It was like a splat … Mine was lots of peas … It’s quite extraordinary. Eighteen months before, it wasn’t there so it had come on from the last mammogram to this mammogram,” she said.
“I was incredibly lucky … It didn’t go into the lymph nodes.”
The duchess described waking up at 4am and worrying she had cancer in other parts of her body.
My own recent illness was detected and treated using the very latest in medical technology that is the result of the hard work of scientists working in this field, and I could not be more thankful. pic.twitter.com/os6e69dzls
— Sarah Ferguson (Fergie) (@SarahTheDuchess) November 1, 2023
“You know that moment when you suddenly wake up and go ‘I’m sure I’ve got cancer somewhere else’? I’m getting over that but it’s only been a few months this year since I had the operation,” she said.
Breast Cancer Now charity has warned that the percentage of women taking up their invitation to breast screenings in England is still below pre-Covid levels, and more than a million women missed out on the vital appointments in 2021/22.
The NHS Breast Screening Programme invites anyone registered with a GP as female aged 50-71 for their screening every three years.
Dame Cally Palmer, national cancer director for NHS England, said: “Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and risk of the disease increases with age, but it also has one of the highest survival rates, thanks to advances in NHS screening and treatment.
“We know lives are saved when cancers are caught early, and I would urge anyone who has received a breast screening invitation – even if you received the invite weeks or months ago – to make an appointment – it could save your life.
“It’s also important that women of all ages are aware of their breast health and know how to check themselves for possible signs of cancer – this means getting to know how your breasts look and feel at different times and telling your doctor straight away if you notice any unusual changes.”
The duchess also joined a discussion on body positivity, and had her handwriting analysed after writing down what she had for breakfast, listing boiled eggs, gluten free toast, tea and fresh green juice.
She was told she had an unusual sense of humour, was positive and a natural extrovert, but was not good at planning and was sometimes a little unrealistic.