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Jennifer Saunders health: The star’s cancer battle revealed – what were her symptoms?

Jennifer Saunders created the legendary comedy sit-com Absolutely Fabulous – lovingly known as Ab Fab. Over a decade ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer – what are the symptoms?

Sharing three grown-up children – Ella, Beattie and Freya – with husband Adrian Edmondson, Jennifer wanted to keep her breast cancer diagnosis a private affair.

Only revealing her experience with breast cancer to the press and wider world once she got the all-clear in 2010, Jennifer had some wise words to pass on.

She said: “Mammograms – they seem like a big thing, but it’s nothing. In and out – just do it.”


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The mother-of-three had discovered lumps in her breast, which lead to the breast cancer diagnosis in October 2009.

Reflecting back on her dealings with the deadly disease, she wrote in her autobiography, Bonkers: My Life In Laughs: “There are times when you want to cry all day.”

Symptoms of breast cancer

Cancer Research UK states: “The first symptom of breast cancer, for most people, is a lump in their breast or some thickening.”

There are five breast cancer symptoms to be aware of, which are:

  • A new lump or thickening in your breast or armpit
  • Change in size, shape or feel of your breast
  • Skin changes in the breast such as puckering, dimpling, a rash or redness of the skin
  • Fluid leaking from the nipple in a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Changes in the position of nipple

My breasts feel lumpy

Cancer Research UK wants to assure people that “most breast lumps aren’t cancer (benign)”.

Sometimes, areas of normal lumpiness become more apparent before a period.

Other times, it could be cysts – fluid-filled sacs found in the breasts. These are quite common.

Another reason behind lumpy breasts could be fibroadenoma – a collection of fibrous glandular tissue (more common in women under 30 years old).

It’s important to get any breast lumps checked out by a doctor.

They can arrange tests for you to find out whether the lumps are cancerous or not.

Lump or swelling in the armpit

Swollen lymph nodes you can feel in the armpit can signal breast cancer.

Change in size, shape or feel of your breast

Become breast aware. Get to know what is normal for your breasts so that you can recognise when something is off.


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Nipple changes

Watch out for one nipple that may turn or sink into the breast.

Remembering her ordeal, Jennifer added: “My lowest point came when I lost all my hair; every eyelash, every follicle… I felt chemical. I felt like a chemical.

“Then I got a terrible rash all over my face. They think it was a reaction to the Herceptin [breast cancer medication].

“It was horrible. I felt like a great big overgrown baby with pimples all over my face. A big, horrible, red-faced baby.”

Never one to dwell on the sad side of things, Jennifer perked up.

“The weird thing is that I came to quite enjoy my visits to the clinic,’ she had written in her book.

“If you’re me, having treatment is a fairly good thing: your life has a routine and pattern. You do what you’re told and I find that quite liberating.”

She even described chemotherapy as “a real cracker”. “It’s like a night on mixed spirits, wine and grappa. It’s a humdinger,” she continued.

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