Will the legacy of tragic breast cancer death of Sarah Harding be more women getting checked?

7th September 2021 Clinical Negligence

Over the weekend we heard the heartbreaking news that Sarah Harding had lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 39.

In August 2020, the Girls Aloud singer announced that she had been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer which had spread to other parts of her body.

In her autobiography, Sarah explained that she found lumps under her arm in December 2019 but had put off seeing a doctor as she thought they were cysts. She eventually saw a doctor who advised her to book an MRI scan but she wrote then “coronavirus hit and everything either went into slow motion or stopped altogether. I was aware that I needed to get this health issue sorted, but with everything that was going on, it was tough”.

Sarah said her pain continued to get worse and she eventually realised that she was in denial about how serious the situation could be. She felt that she had been using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse not to face up to the fact that something was very wrong.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women and most cases are diagnosed in women over 50. It is particularly shocking when we hear about young women like Sarah being diagnosed with the disease but around five per cent of breast cancer is found in those under 40.

When breast cancer is diagnosed early, less treatment may be needed, and treatment is more likely to be effective.

Routine breast screening on the NHS is only offered to women over 50 and younger women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer. It is therefore vitally important that all women check their breasts regularly and see their GP promptly if they have any concerns. If women are not satisfied with the diagnosis made by the GP or if their symptoms worsen, it is important that women go back and seek further medical advice and insist on referral to a local breast clinic for further investigation.

What makes the death of Sarah Harding such a tragedy is that it could have been prevented if she had sought medical advice sooner and booked in for the recommended investigations when advised to do so. Despite the ongoing situation with Covid-19, the NHS breast screening services are still running and women should be seen within two weeks of their referral.

As a clinical negligence solicitor, I have dealt with numerous cases of delayed diagnosis of breast cancer where the delay has led to women dying or requiring more extensive treatment.  I have witnessed the devastating effect that advanced breast cancer and treatment has on women and their families and it is even more distressing when it comes to light that the outcome for a woman is likely to have been far better with earlier diagnosis.

If Sarah Harding’s story leads to women checking their breasts more regularly and seeking prompt medical advice when they have concerns, lives will undoubtedly be saved and the legacy of this young, talented and vibrant woman will be an amazing one.



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Katie Nolan is an Associate located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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