WHEN Mary Burgess found a lump in her breast she was understandably frantic with worry and had checks straight away for cancer.
Her health scare saved her dog Gracie Lou’s life though – because just weeks later she found a lump on her chest too.
Normally Mary, from Emsworth, Hants, would have dismissed the growth, which was only the size of a pea.
But having been warned that was sign of possible cancer in humans, she took Gracie Lou to the vets.
They scanned the Shih-tzu and found several tumours in her chest.
Mary, 51, recalled: “If it hadn’t been for my own cancer scare, and that I knew that a small lump was a sign, she wouldn’t be here now.
“I’d always believed that because she had been spayed, she couldn’t get breast cancer.
“But the lump in her tummy was exactly what I’d been told to look for.
“Her vet operated and cut away half of her chest but thankfully we able to take away the cancer. She has to go for checks and we just have to hope it doesn’t come back.”
Mammary cancer is rare in spayed dogs, just 0.5% in those spayed before their first season, 8% if spayed after their first heat and 26% if spayed later. The operation reduces the production of oestrogen which is linked to the disease.
Mary’s tests for cancer came back clear, and her lump was just a cyst, meaning she was fit and well to look after Gracie Lou.
The experience moved her so much that she decided to set up the Animal Star Awards, recognising the amazing things pets do for their owners and those who help animals too.
And she wants to make other pet owners aware of the signs of breast cancer so they can ensure their pets are treated as soon as possible.
Mary said: “Looking back, Gracie Lou was drinking more water, sleeping more and was off her food too.
“I’d take her out and she would become breathless very easily. I took a photo of her one day while we were out and looking back at that now, she looks very drawn.
“Then we found the lump and luckily it was really early. Seeing her in pain after the surgery was awful but now she’s back to her happy self and I hope her story can help others.”
Their inspiring story appeared in the Sunday Mirror and you can read it here.
To find out more about the awards, visit www.animalstarawards.com.