AGED just 24, Anita Colson was looking forward to starting her new career and celebrating her engagement.

But after discovering a lump in her breast she went to her GP and was told the devastating news she had breast cancer.

With no history of the disease in her family and only in her early twenties, Anita, of Queens Road, Southend, was stunned to receive the prognosis.

She is now speaking out to raise awareness among young women about breast cancer and checking yourself regularly because screening only starts at aged 50.

She said: “When I first found out I was told not to tell anyone, but that didn’t work for me. It was very hard to digest.

“It’s not something I would have expected and even the consultants were shocked. It’s just very sudden.

“They said I have had it for a few months. It was a shock, especially for mum and dad as we don’t have a history of cancer in the family.

“People need to be aware that just because you are in your twenties and thirties and if you don’t have a history of breast cancer in your family, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get it.”

Miss Colson, who has only just started her job in graduate recruitment and became engaged in March, said she will be on hormone tablets for five to ten years and will be having a mastectomy in January – then starting chemotherapy.

The cancer will be removed and analysed, then doctors will put her on a treatment plan.

She said: “As with many people my worry is about my hair and, something I hadn't thought about before, my fertility.

“The reality is I keep asking ‘Why me? Why now? What have I done wrong?’ It’s something no one can answer.”

Anita said she wants to make more people her age aware that they can be diagnosed with cancer and to make sure they are checking themselves reguarly.

She added: “I have no breast cancer in my family, I am 24 and when I felt something that was like a lump, I first of all shook it off. I did not think it would be cancer.

“It isn't spoken about getting breast cancer at 24 and I certainly didn't know anyone who had.

“Please let this be a lesson and reminder to check your breasts.

“You may think it’s nothing like I did and I hope it’s not, but get checked. I was so worried about wasting the doctors’ and hospitals’ time and them moaning at me for it, so I wasn't going to get checked.”

Since sharing her story on Facebook, Anita says several women have messaged her to thank her for sharing her experience.

She added: “If reading this makes you check your breasts I am glad. If it helps you identify an abnormality and it saves you, I am so very glad.

“I still haven't fully accepted my prognosis but I know thatmy family and friends are going through this too and everyone is dealing with this differently.

“Everyone tells me that I am strong and will get through this, but I’m not – I just have to be.”