Comedian Urzila Carlson was 20 when she was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Now the 39-year-old is a mother, wife, 7 Days presenter and all-round funny person - and she is telling her story as an ambassador for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.

"I felt uncomfortable in my own body," she said of her experience in her native South Africa. "I had cramps, I just knew something was not right. So I went [to] my local GP."

Carlson said the doctor sent her for a scan, which came back showing a lump on her kidney.

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"He said it was a common cyst and it would go away by itself."

But her instincts told her the doctor was wrong, so she asked to be referred to a specialist, who discovered an aggressive tumour on her kidney. She was diagnosed with renal cancer and had the kidney and an adrenal gland removed immediately.

The tumour had been affecting her moods - making the normally introverted woman aggressive and emotional. She said her early diagnosis and full recovery were all thanks to listening to her instincts and knowing her body.

Her message to Kiwi women is "check your breasts, get your mammogram - it's so important, not just for you, but for your family".

"Women need to ... insist on a second opinion when they're worried."

Carlson plans to get her first mammogram next year. Last night, she got to switch the pink light on at the Sky Tower.

According to the Breast Cancer Foundation, about 3000 women and 20 men will be diagnosed with the disease this year.

Get involved

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• Visit the pink caravan, which is touring New Zealand.

• Sign the petition to encourage free mammograms for women up to 74.

• Donate during the pink ribbon appeal on October 9 and 10 (Phone 0508 105 105 to volunteer or visit www.takeaction.org.nz).