Strictly judge Shirley Ballas details ‘emotional’ breast cancer scare

TV judge was encouraged to attend mammogram by her ‘Strictly’ colleague Amy Dowden

Nicole Vassell
Sunday 28 April 2024 10:44 BST
Shirley Ballas responds after Strictly audience member heckles her

Shirley Ballas has revealed that she has suffered a cancer scare after being encouraged by her Strictly Come Dancing colleague Amy Dowden to attend a routine mammogram.

The dancer and TV judge, 63, spoke out about her recent health concerns in a new interview with The Sun.

Ballas explained that doctors discovered lumpy tissue in her left breast after a routine examination, and she has been feeling emotional as she awaits news of the biopsy.

“I’m worried I’ve worked myself to death,” she told the publication on Saturday (27 April).

“It’s been terrifying, to have the needle go in your body to numb it before the biopsy.

“I feel very emotional. I’m not the same at work at the moment, so I’m teaching, but it’s constantly on my mind.”

Ballas, who has judged on the hit BBC dance competition since 2017, then noted the impact of professional dancer Amy Dowden on her decision to attend her scheduled mammogram.

Shirley Ballas
Shirley Ballas (Getty Images for The National Lottery)

Dowden was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in May 2023, and missed competing in the most recent series of Strictly as she was undergoing treatment. In February, she celebrated as doctors found “no evidence of disease” remaining.

Ballas had been considering rescheduling her breast examination for later in the year when her schedule was less busy, but Dowden encouraged her to get checked sooner.

“My dear student and friend Amy said to me, ‘You must never miss a mammogram’,” Ballas said.

“So when this particular invite came in I could have put it off until the summer when it is a bit quieter. But I’m glad I didn’t.

Heeding Dowden’s advice, Ballas attended a mammogram appointment at an NHS mobile unit, before doctors called her days later and asked her to attend a further appointment.

Amy Dowden in October 2023
Amy Dowden in October 2023 (Getty Images)

Ballas continued: “I was shocked as I do self-checks, and I’d had a self-check with another nurse a few weeks before for something else and she didn’t feel anything. But the mammogram scanners can pick up small abnormalities.

“So I went to the hospital and the doctor said, ‘I don’t want to alarm you but we found something and we’re not sure what it is.”

Ballas’s doctors then gave her a more advanced 3D mammogram, which found lumpy tissue that they later took a biopsy for.

The dance expert shared that one of her greatest concerns is dying before her 87-year-old mother, Audrey Rich.

“My biggest fear would be that I pass before my mother,” Ballas admitted. “I couldn’t think of anything worse.

“Because she needs me as much as I need her and at 87 she’s amazing. She takes care of me. I told her I was fine, but inside I was nervous.”

Strictly Come Dancing is slated to return on BBC One in autumn this year.

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