This Woman's Viral Breast Cancer Photo Reveals An Unexpected Way Women Should Always Check For Lumps

Hayley Browning

Hayley Browning was diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks ago, at the age of only 27. In the British woman’s viral Facebook post about her breast cancer, she emphasizes how crucial it is for women to check for breast lumps while lying down and standing up. In Browning’s case, lying down allowed her to feel a lump that she couldn’t have felt standing — and she was thus able to begin treatment for her cancer a lot earlier than she might otherwise have been.

Browning, who lives with her partner in Chelmsford, Essex, has family members who have been affected by breast cancer, so she knows the importance of regularly checking for lumps or changes in her breast tissue.  She usually does her breast exams in the shower, but she felt something strange one morning while she was lying in bed. “I happened to rest my hand on my inner left breast and felt something that hurt and then felt it properly and realized it was a lump,” she tells Bustle. “When I felt the lump, I burst into tears as I was very scared and panicked, and my partner comforted me. I then rang my Mum in tears and she booked an emergency doctor's appointment for me for the same day.” A biopsy revealed that Browning has breast cancer; she has now had a lumpectomy to remove the lump and will undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy throughout the next five months.

Hayley Browning

In a Facebook post that has been shared more than 150,000 times, Browning discussed her experience. “I could only feel the lump whilst lying down and it completely disappeared standing up,” she wrote. “Most websites tell you to check for lumps in the shower but if I had followed this advice, the lump may have grown too large to be treatable. Not even the surgeon could feel my lump when I was standing up.” She urged women to do breast exams both while standing and lying down — because a lump that’s detectable one way might not be detectable the other. (The National Breast Cancer Foundation suggests that you also examine yourself in front of a mirror, so that you can see any visual changes to your breasts.) Browning wrote, “As I think about my long journey ahead and the chemotherapy I will undertake, I want to reach as many people with this message and help find more #LaidBackLumps.”

Hayley Browning

Browning says that she decided to share her experience on Facebook when she told friends about how she found her lump and discovered that they also didn’t know to do breast exams lying down. “I have to thank them for giving me the confidence to post on Facebook in the first place,” she tells Bustle.

Browning’s story highlights how essential it is to have a thorough knowledge of what is normal for your breasts and to be proactive if you detect something unusual. “I'm no expert in lumps,” she says, “but I just encourage everyone to consult your doctor as soon as you feel something you are unsure of. Just don't delay booking that appointment.”

Here’s hoping that more women will learn from Browning’s story to check themselves for #LaidBackLumps, and that Browning herself will have a full and speedy recovery.