Sheffield woman discovers cancer after lump is dislodged

A woman claims she owes her life to her four-year-old nephew after he accidentally knocked her right breast and dislodged a cancerous lump.

Michelle Brown, 46, felt a sharp pain in her chest as Freddy, then three, used her as a ‘climbing frame’ and pulled himself up with his elbow on her breasts.

The pain didn’t cease and a week later she says she could see a previously invisible lump which appeared raised when she looked in the mirror.

Michelle says thanks to Freddy she could start treatment in time after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which had also spread.

Now, a year on she is celebrating being in remission after undergoing a full hysterectomy and rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Michelle Brown says she is full of gratitude that Freddy climbed on her that day

The 46-year-old had been visiting her brother, Freddy's father, in November last year

The 46-year-old had been visiting her brother, Freddy’s father, in November last year

Michelle, from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, said: ‘I owe Freddy my life, I would dread to think where I would be if he hadn’t used me as a climbing frame that day.

‘The elbow, which he obviously did by accident, disrupted the tumour – which turned out to be cancer.’

‘I could feel a lump’ 

Michelle and Freddy weer playing when she visited her brother, Brian Brown, 31, during bonfire weekend last year.

When he caught the top of Michelle’s right breast. She called the doctors when the pain hadn’t gone a week later and she could see a bulge in the mirror.

Michelle said: ‘Freddy nicked me and I told him «you hurt me there Freddy» and I later touched the area and I could feel a lump.

‘I checked my breasts all the time – but it came as a shock to find I had a lump and the way it came to the surface.

‘All mums and women who work and live around kids know that the first thing a child does to pull themselves up is to use your chest.’

A week after her nephew, then three, climbed on her and knocked her breast, Michelle was still in pain there

A week after her nephew, then three, climbed on her and knocked her breast, Michelle was still in pain there

She called her doctor after a previously invisible lump appeared raised when she looked at her breast in the mirror

Devastating news

Michelle received the results on November 30, 2016, which revealed the worst news – she had stage two breast cancer and it had spread to her lymph nodes.

She underwent an eight hour operation to remove the tumours and then had to go through further draining chemotherapy sessions.

She is now in remission less than a year after the discovery.

Luckily, the initial cancer find meant that Michelle did not have to undergo a double mastectomy.

However, she was also told by doctors she needed a full hysterectomy because there was a very high risk of this type of hormonal-receptive cancer returning.

Michelle also previously suffered endometriosis, a common condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb (endometrium), which also worsens with oestrogen so the operation helped with this too.

‘Check, check, check’ 

Despite the year-long cancer fight, Michelle’s love and pride of finding out she had cancer the way she did still remains.

She said: ‘Freddy came over to me when I got my results and said «you’re not going anywhere».

‘Obviously being a three-year-old it was such a great thing for him to say.

‘Freddy saved my life, it could have been so much worse – he didn’t know how ill I was and doesn’t know about it, but knew I was poorly.’
Michelle is fundraising to repay the staff who treated her at Sheffield Hallam Hospital

Former career company owner Michelle says her partner Emma Senior has been her rock.

She said: ‘I don’t have children of my own, but I have plenty of nieces and nephews to keep me busy. Freddy is just amazing.’

Michelle is urging other women to be aware of the symptoms of breast cancer.

She added: ‘All I want to say is ladies, check, check, check – even if it is a small sign please go and see your GP.’

Michelle had helped repay the ‘fantastic teams’ at Sheffield Hallam Hospital and Western Park Hospital by fundraising in a series of endeavours to raise charity cash.

To donate to Michelle’s cause visit here.


Lifestyle changes have been shown in studies to decrease breast cancer risk even in high-risk women. The following are steps you can take to lower your risk:

Limit alcohol

The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk. Limit yourself to less than one drink per day as even small amounts increase risk.

Don’t smoke

Evidence suggests a link particularly in premenopausal women. In addition, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.

Control your weight

Being overweight or obese increases the risk, especially if obesity occurs after menopause.

Be physically active

Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. Officials recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.


Breast-feeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.

Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy

Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you’re taking this for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options.

Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution

Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation. While more studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and radiation exposure. Reduce your exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary.

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