Devoted Derbyshire dog saves owner’s life by detecting breast cancer

A devoted Derbyshire dog saved her owner’s life by scratching at her chest to alert her to a cancerous lump in her right breast.

By Sara Jane Perovic
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 10:33 am

Tiny Yorkshire terrier Cleo, then seven, clawed at her owner Brenda Richards as she tried to carry her upstairs to bed as usual.

When Brenda, 78, went to investigate the area, she found a lump which medics then diagnosed as breast cancer.

Brenda was given the all-clear after treatment and believes her cancer would have been missed if it wasn't for clever Cleo.

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Brenda Richards with her Yorkshire terrier Cleo.

She said: "She was trying to tell me something. Without a shadow of a doubt, my little doggie, Cleo, found the lump in my breast and saved my life.

“I had no idea there was a lump there. If my little doggie hadn’t found it, I don’t think I would ever have known about it.

“I dread to think what would have happened if Cleo hadn’t behaved the way she did.”

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Brenda has given the all-clear after treatment and believes her cancer would have been missed if it wasn't for clever Cleo.

Loving Cleo is too small to climb the stairs, so retired home help worker Brenda usually carries her to bed.

But in April 2019, the panicked pooch acted out and was instead struggling and wriggling to break free.

During the struggle, she clipped Brenda with her claws, alerting her to the deadly disease.

Brenda said: "She just did not want to be there. She was struggling and wriggling around in my arms and she has little legs and little claws.

The devoted dog saved her owner’s life by scratching at her chest to alert her to a cancerous lump in her right breast.

"It was then I felt the lump."

Brenda, a great-grandmother-of-three, was diagnosed by medics at the Royal Derby Hospital where she'd previously volunteered for three years.

After eight months of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and an on-going clinical trial, she was given the all-clear.

Brenda added: "I knew I was in safe hands. I knew all the nurses from when I volunteered at the very same hospital. I had seen how they treated people with my own eyes.

"They were shocked to see me in there as a patient.

"I would never have known that nine years later I would be back at the same hospital with the same nurses being diagnosed with breast cancer. The nurses were all amazing.

“There was no messing about. My mammogram, biopsy and diagnosis all happened on the same day.

"They gave me a choice to have a lumpectomy, a mammogram or do nothing so I opted for the lumpectomy.”

The minimally invasive procedure meant doctors removed the cancer and a small amount of the healthy surrounding tissue.

Brenda, who lives in Derby with her husband of 60 years Mick, urged other women to book their mammograms.

She said: “The sooner you go to get checked or diagnosed, the better.

"In spite of my worries, when cancer actually happened to me, I breezed through it because my lump was found early.

"Getting the all-clear in February 2020 felt fantastic. I needed to know the cancer had gone.

“My dog Cleo, my baby, saved my life without a doubt,” added Brenda