October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Rachel Cowey reports on how you can get involved. The awareness month is an annual national health campaign started up by the major breast cancer charities.
The aim is to increase awareness of the disease among both the public and health professionals, raise funds for research into the cause, prevention and treatment of the disease, and offer vital information and support to those affected by it and their family members.
Progress has been made, but the figures are still alarmingly high. Each year, 41,000 women and 300 men are diagnosed and 35 women still die from the disease each day in the UK. Breakthrough Breast Cancer is launching a screening campaign in October, publishing a BOOB survey of 2,200 women aged 50 plus. Women over 70 are the most at risk but a recent survey has shown that this age group do not realise that they are at risk. Although women aged 50 to 70 are entitled to a breast screening every three years, women over 70 must request one but can still be screened for free. Luckily more women than ever in the UK are surviving breast cancer thanks to better awareness, better treatments and better screening. This is why the events of the awareness month are really beneficial.
There are various venues around the country, where you can participate in walks, ranging from 4km to 12km. There's something for everyone. If you prefer running, there are 10km runs through beautiful scenery for example Alnwick Castle. The runs take place on Sundays during October.
If you're not very energetic or it's too late to join up, you can show your support by buying the new lavender trust pin, which is available to buy online or in some stores. Details can be found on www.breastcancercare.org.uk. Alternatively, there will be a national "wear it pink" day on October 27. The idea is that people will wear at least one item of pink clothing and you can donate £2 to the charity. You could also do something pink - organise a pink party with pink food, drinks etc. Fundraising packs are available to help you put together an event. Find out more on www.wearitpink.co.uk. Recently, there are mobile phone charms on sale, which are very popular with young people. These cost £1 from the usual stores.
Several companies are working in partnership with Breakthrough Breast Cancer. A percentage of their profits on certain products (generally with a pink theme!) will be donated to the charity. One of the most well known businesses is Asda, which brings out special T-shirts, pyjamas, bags... even wellies with the charity's logo on. Marks and Spencer has joined this year, with T-shirts on sale. Boots is also a partner, raising awareness as well as money, with their Be Up Front campaign. QVC, Dorothy Perkins, Swaroski and Interflora are others.
Bingo for Breakthrough has raised over £1.6 million since 2003. Regional bingo clubs will be holding the event from October 22 to 29, in the hope that they raise over £650,000. There's the chance to win fluffy pink bunnies or pink sparkly top hats perfect for bingo queens, and if you get all your numbers you could win £200,00 courtesy of the National Bingo Game. If you want to support Bingo for Breakthrough call the National Bingo Game Association on 01582 860900 to discover your nearest club. This year, celebrities are going to play and have also been asked to create an art piece, using their Bingo dabbers. The theme is "What's the best thing about being a woman?" These will be auctioned in October and the public can bid on eBay.
Breast Cancer Care is taking the opportunity in awareness month to push for better treatment and support across the NHS and private sector. This usually entails a high-profile government meeting, to ask MPs for their assistance.
The charity, Against Breast Care, has organised a Ben Nevis Ascent, taking place from October 13 to 15. It's an easy gradient so any active person will manage the climb. You can also buy a life ring to show your support. It's a sterling silver band set with four rubellites. The charity receives 25% of the £60 retailed price (and a further 5%, if you buy before October 31). BBs coffee and muffins shop has created a special pink muffin which they are selling with the strawberry milkshake. There will be a 15p donation from each sale.
If you manage to raise £1,000 in any of your events, your name will be placed on the challenger's wall in the Breakthrough for Breast Cancer's research centre. Their website gives suggestions on things you can do to raise this money - walks, bikes rides, golf tournaments, balls and gala diners.
Page 2: One in 9 will suffer
One in 9 will suffer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, apart from non-melanoma skin cancer. Here are the facts:
One in nine women in the UK will develop the disease during their lifetime.
Four in five cases occur in women over 50.
Five-year survival rates have gone up by 20% to 80% in the last 20 years.
Cancer Research UK is the leading funder of breast cancer research in the UK, spending £25m last year.
The NHS invites all women between 50 and 70 for a mammogram every three years.
Regular screening is available to women over 70 on request. Women in this age group should contact their GP or local breast screening unit.
It is recommended that women who are at moderate or high risk of breast cancer due to a strong family history of the disease are screened annually from their early 40s onwards.
Being overweight after the menopause and regular drinking slightly increase the risk of breast cancer.
There are around 260 cases of male breast cancer each year in the UK.
For more information see www.cancerresearchuk.org/breastcancer
If it hadn't been for the routine test I took, I might not be here now
Breast cancer survivor Annette Wake is convinced raising awareness about the disease could save lives.
The 65-year-old from Seaton Delaval discovered she had cancer after a routine screening in 2002 at a mobile unit in Cramlington.
It showed up a tiny tumour the size of a match-head at the back of her breast.
She owes her life to that test, which led to a lumpectomy and four sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Annette is now free of cancer.
The retired civil servant is urging women across the country to take notice of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and make sure they check for lumps on a regular basis and attend screenings if they are eligible.
"It's so important for people to be aware of what can happen if you don't keep a check on yourself or go for a mammogram," said Annette.
"As far as I'm concerned it's the most important thing in the world because if I had not had a mammogram I don't know how long if would've taken before the lump was found and by then it could've been too late."
Annette is also keen to see more celebrities back awareness campaigns about breast cancer and has praised high-profile sufferers such as Kylie Minogue, pictured, for speaking out about the condition.
The 37-year-old pop star was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in May 2006 and underwent surgery to remove a lump. She is now free from the cancer and has spoken since on TV about her illness.
Earlier diagnosis and better treatment have led to a 29% fall in breast cancer mortality rates since 1989.
It is estimated that there are around 172,000 women in the UK who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the last 10 years.
"When Kylie was diagnosed I think it made women realise it can happen to anyone," said Annette. "Even if she saves one person's life by them thinking, `If someone who is famous and in the paper a lot can get it than I could too' then that's something.
"Since I was diagnosed, people who know me are certainly more aware and wouldn't dream of not taking the opportunity to go for a mammogram.
"Now there are a lot of people being diagnosed because of efforts by organisations like Cancer Research to raise awareness."
Don't duck vital appeal
This autumn, Cancer Research UK will be selling what is sure to be the season's coolest bathroom accessory - a pink rubber duck - designed to support the charity's All Join Together Campaign to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The duck is called Betty and all proceeds from sales will go towards funding the charity's vital research into breast cancer. Not only is the duck an adorable addition to any bathroom but it's hoped the information on the tag accompanying it about self-examination will encourage women to be more breast aware.
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: "Relaxing in the bath is an ideal time for women to notice any abnormal change in either breast. It's very important women know what's normal for them and bath time is a great time to look for any changes."
Priced at just £4.99 and available from any of the 600 Cancer Research UK shops in the UK, the duck looks set to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month's hottest item. It comes in dark pink or white, both are decorated with the iconic pink ribbon motif.
A gorgeous pink T-shirt (£6.99), candle (£4.99) and pin badge will also be on sale in Cancer Research UK shops.
For more information or to find your nearest shop visit www.cancerresearch.org/shops