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Why I used TikTok to raise awareness of breast cancer symptoms

Katrina Dilnot, 27, on being diagnosed with breast cancer in her twenties, and why she used Tik Tok to raise awareness.

I had been going back and forth to the hospital after finding a tiny pebble-like bump under my breast in May 2020.

At first, the ultrasound scans showed a cyst and it went down after needle aspiration.

Within a couple of months, however, a much larger lump started to grow in the same place. The consultants at the hospital were incredible and didn’t stop investigating until they knew exactly what it was.

After more ultrasound scans and a mammogram, I was called in on my 27th birthday in January to be told that I had breast cancer.

Why I used TikTok to raise awareness

At times it was hard to stay positive. But I was also so grateful for the consultants and how quickly we caught the tumour.

Any longer and my diagnosis would have been invasive and I would have faced a much tougher uphill journey.

Read more: Know the symptoms of breast cancer

Because of this, I wanted everyone to know how important it is to check boobs regularly, even when you don’t think it’s relevant or needed.

The TikToks include an easy step-by-step on how to check your boobs. I also talk about what to look out for – it isn’t just a lump but in fact changes to your boob that can be a sign too.

I found sharing my journey overall also helped with awareness – at 27 with no family history so many people were shocked that this could even happen.

Getting diagnosed early

My tumour grew rapidly within eight months so I count my lucky stars every day that we managed to catch it early.

A couple of months later, the tumour could have spread and I may have faced an even bigger battle. As many under 50 won’t have routine checkups and mammograms, it’s so important we check our boobs regularly to spot any early signs. This message is so important and I wanted to share it with everyone I could – how to check your boobs and what to expect at appointments if you need to see a specialist.

Early detection can save lives and no matter your age, family background or medical history, breast cancer can affect anyone.

My breast cancer diagnosis

I was absolutely surprised when I was diagnosed – at the age of 27 with no family history of breast cancer. I thought it was almost impossible!

Throughout the process I was very focused on remaining positive, trying to not let worry take over, so when I actually heard the words from the consultant, we were in complete shock. It took some time to digest it (to be honest I still am!) but knew I had to trust the process and face things head on.

Starting a business

TOMIA was launched in April 2019 after I struggled to find timeless yet modern swimwear.

There was a pool of fast fashion styles suitable for a short period of time however for TOMIA I wanted to create classic, lasting pieces that women would want to wear time and time again.

We now have nine styles in our collection and looking to grow this over the coming months.

Mastectomy range

Following my diagnosis, I found an amazing network of women on social media who were going through similar, all so supportive and helpful in many ways.

Many shared how challenging it was adapting to physical changes to their body during breast cancer treatment and with that, I instantly knew I wanted to offer a mastectomy range.

Everyone deserves to feel fabulous and that includes being in swimwear after life-changing surgery. It is early days and I am still working through the designs but hope we can offer a gorgeous collection that is suited for women who have had single and double mastectomies as well as scaring that needs to stay out of the sun.

My advice

Speak to a GP if you notice any change in your boobs. I know the thought of doing so is scary, but this is a lot less scary than what you might need to face if you left it alone.

Chances are the lump is a cyst or breast tissue however you cannot be sure until it’s investigated.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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