Young woman who found breast cancer lump by accident shares tip and helps others around the world

  • By David Williams, ITV News

A young woman who discovered she had breast cancer by accident has helped women around the world discover undetected lumps after sharing her tip online.

Like millions of others Hayley Browning had always followed the advice to check for lumps while standing up in the shower.

Her life changed at 27 when she felt what proved to be a cancerous lump while lying down at home - only for it to disappear when she stood up.

"I found it by completely by accident. And as soon as I found it I panicked immediately,” Hayley told ITV News.

"All the advice that I had read is that you should check in the shower. So for me when I was lying down and I felt it, to be honest I thought it’s probably nothing because you’re meant to check standing up."

She added: "When I stood up it completely vanished. Even though I was trying to find that same lump, it just disappeared.

"When I showed it to my consultant he also couldn’t feel it standing up. That’s just the nature of breast cancer, there’s no right or wrong way.”

After being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, Hayley shared her tip on Facebook for women to check their breasts while lying down.

Hayley's original Facebook message has been shared by more than 250,000 people. Credit: Hayley Browning

She was inundated with messages after her post went viral and her hashtag #laidbacklumps was shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

"I was completely blown away by the response," she said.

"People from around the world got in touch with me saying that because of my post they had the confidence to go and have their lump checked if they were worried about something.

"And some people have contacted me to say they had been diagnosed specifically because of my post."

Hayley had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. Credit: Hayley Browning

They included one woman from Australia who found a lump and discovered she had four tumours.

Hayley, now 28, said knowing she could have saved other lives helped her through her lumpectomy and chemotherapy.

She has also had a double mastectomy because she is a carrier of the high-risk inherited BRCA2 (BReast CAncer2) gene.

Hayley said the response she got helped her during her treatment. Credit: ITV News

"It was a really horrific time in my life but doing that post and knowing that I’d helped other people just really gave me that energy to just keep getting through my treatment and doing what I was doing," she said.

"And it really spurred me on just to get through it."

The avid walker, from Chelmsford, Essex, has set herself the challenge of reaching the summit of Snowdon next May to raise money for Breast Cancer Care.

"Walking is a massive passion in my life," she said, having climbed many of the UK peaks with her boyfriend.

Hayley said her photos of a walking holiday in the Lake District before her diagnosis now take on a new poignancy. Credit: Hayley Browning

"We climbed Scafell Pike in November and I now think back to those photos and I think I might have had a tumour then and I had no idea."

The chemotherapy wiped out Hayley's body to the point where she could barely walk to the end of her road to post a letter because of the pain.

"With my fitness being completely knocked it’s really affected me," she said. "To think that I could be on Snowdon again is just amazing."

How do you check for breast cancer? Symptoms and signs to look for

  • a change in size or shape

  • redness or rash on the skin and/or around the nipple

  • a lump or area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast

  • a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling

  • liquid that comes from the nipple without squeezing

  • a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone

  • your nipple has become pulled in or looks different, for example changed its position or shape

  • pain in your breast or your armpit that’s there all or almost all of the time

Credit: Breast Cancer Care
Credit: Breast Cancer Care