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The 56-year-old actor - best known for playing Kathy Bates in the ITV soap between 1985 and 2005 - has revealed doctors originally dismissed the lump as a cyst, before a follow-up scan revealed it was in fact cancer.
Burrows told OK! Magazine: “I just happened to catch myself [while exercising] and thought, ‘Good grief, what’s that?’ I thought it must be a gland, but a few days later it was still there, so I rang my GP and they asked if I could come in the next hour.
“A week later I was at the hospital and the first consultant told me it was a cyst. He said: ‘I won’t be seeing you again.’ The relief I felt!”
Burrows revealed she was advised to bring someone to accompany her to her next appointment. But as she is single she decided to attend alone - and was greeted by a Macmillan [specialist cancer support] nurse.
She said: “She nearly broke down telling me, but I just went, ‘Don’t be daft! We’ll get through it and I’m going to ring that bell [to celebrate the end of treatment].’”
The actor was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer in her left breast in February and began treatment. Since then she has been taking each day at a time.
Burrows said: “You’ve got to make nice moments, they become so precious. Even though they might be so simple, when you’ve got cancer, they become wonderful, momentous ones.”
She joined Emmerdale as Kathy Bates in 1985 just three months after leaving drama school. During her 16 years in the soap her character was married three times, including to Chris Tate, and some of her most notable storylines include being kidnapped by a diamond lord, knocked down by a horse and jilted at the alter.
Kathy was last seen in Emmerdale in 2005, when she moved to Australia.
Watch: The latest soap scoop from Emmerdale