BARNSLEY Council’s chief executive Sarah Norman is remaining ‘optimistic’ after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Sarah, who’s been in the post since July 2019, said catching the condition early meant she would be away from work for a month as she undergoes treatment.
With breast cancer one of the most common, but most curable, forms of cancer for women, Sarah has urged Barnsley residents to get checked and act on any problems straight away.
“As many as one in seven women get breast cancer in their lifetime, and it is one of the most treatable forms of cancer,” she said.
“Indeed one really helpful conversation I have had with a friend, who is also a Professor of General Practice, is that there almost needs to be a new name for it which takes away the cancer tag so that women see it as something important to identify and treat but not as a life-threatening disease.
“The key thing is catching it as early as you can, and I have found some comfort that when I spotted the lump, I acted on it straight away.”
Screening services are working to reduce a backlog in cancer cases caused by the impact of Covid which saw a six-month postponement of breast cancer screening at Barnsley Hospital between March and September last year.
The main target for early diagnosis referrals is that 85 per cent of people - within 62 days of referral from a GP practice - will have a treatment date, but in Barnsley performance stood at 78.8 per cent as of April.
Services are exploring a move to a specialist standalone facility in the town centre to tackle the backlog, but for now GP practices remain the first port of call for people who are concerned.
“It would have been so easy to convince myself that it wasn’t really anything and not gone to my GP,” said Sarah.
“I am encouraging every woman I know to regularly check their breasts and get to know how they normally look and feel, so they can spot anything unusual.
“I am optimistic that it has been detected early and, therefore, that my prognosis is good and that my treatment won’t be too lengthy.
“They have already advised me that I am unlikely to need chemotherapy.”
The authority’s executive director for core services Shokat Lal will stand in for Sarah while she is away from work.
“This is hugely frustrating for me as I just had returned from a holiday feeling refreshed, with renewed vigour to press forward with our ‘Barnsley 2030’ ambitions and our work within the council to make Barnsley the place of possibilities.
“I am, however, trying to think about this as just an inconvenient pause, a little hiccup, before I can get back to the job I love.
“I have great confidence in ‘Team Barnsley’ to continue to make progress in my absence.
“At the moment, the doctors have advised me to plan to be off work for a month, and I am hoping it will be no more than that, although that will depend on the extent of my operation and radiotherapy.”