With Breast Cancer Awareness Month now drawing to a close, the disease will be at the top of the minds of many women who have experienced breast cancer or know someone who has.
It also marks a year since the Scottish Government’s hard-hitting ‘Detect Cancer Early’ breast campaign appeared on our TV screens.
The ground-breaking advertising campaign featuring Scottish actress Elaine C Smith was a worldwide first, depicting real female breasts with visible signs of breast cancer.
One in nine women in Scotland will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, so it’s critical that women check themselves regularly and are aware of all the tell-tale signs and get any changes checked at the first opportunity.
Research released earlier this month by the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity revealed that half of Scottish women do not check their breasts regularly for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
Even though many signs of breast cancer are lumps, there are often other visual signs that women should be aware of as depicted in the pioneering advertising campaign. These include changes to breasts such as dimples, skin that looks like orange peel, crusty or leaking nipples, or a nipple that’s become turned in.
The Scottish Government’s bold approach to tackling lack of knowledge about breast cancer signs paid off: latest figures reveal a 50 per cent rise in the number of women in Scotland seeing their GP with concerns about signs of breast cancer. Campaign research also showed that double the number of women now claim to know what to look for when checking their breasts.
Elaine C Smith said: “For too many years women have been confused and scared about what to look for, and the campaign really has helped encourage them to seek help. I am hugely proud of what it has achieved to date and have no doubt whatsoever that increased awareness saves lives.”
One woman who acknowledges the “straight-talking” approach that the Scottish Government took when making the TV advert 53-year-old Janet Brodie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after she noticed leaking from one of her breasts.
As part of a new fitness regime, Janet tried out a ‘Power Hoop’ hula-hooping class, but was hit in the chest with the heavy hoop. She felt that she had a swollen breast and some pain but justifiably blamed this on the hoop incident.
A few months later, Janet was watching television when the Elaine C Smith breast cancer advert came on, which struck her as taking a ”different approach to the subject”. It wasn’t much later when she noticed that her nipple was leaking.
The significance of the TV advert hit home and Janet went to her GP where she was referred to the Western General breast clinic. After a biopsy, it turned out Janet had five tumours, two in her breast and three under her arm.
“It caught my attention because I really like Elaine C Smith,” Janet said.
“I had been experiencing pain in my breast but I didn’t think it could be cancer until I saw the advert.”
Janet started three and a half months of chemotherapy treatment last December and has gone through two surgical procedures to remove the tumours and her lymph nodes, as well as radiotherapy.
Janet is now getting on with her life and gradually resuming an active lifestyle while recovering.
She said: “If it wasn’t for the Elaine C Smith breast cancer advert, I may not be here today. It’s really made me more aware of what to look for and that’s just what I did. I’d urge all women to regularly check their breasts for any changes and go and see their GP as soon as possible.”
All women between 50 and 70 are offered to participate in breast cancer screening every three years through GP surgeries, which continue to be the best way to detect the disease early. Never ignore changes to your health and always regularly check your breasts. Make an appointment with your GP if you have any concerns whatsoever.
If you want to find out more information about breast cancer, contact NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88 or visit www.nhsinform.co.uk.