A groundbreaking campaign starring Elaine C Smith has been launched to highlight the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
The advert is the first in the UK to show real pictures of women’s breasts with visible signs of breast cancer.
It features Scottish actress Elaine C Smith, who lost her own mum to breast cancer, holding a series of placards illustrating the symptoms of breast cancer.
The advert carries the message ‘Lumps aren’t the only sign of breast cancer’, so that women know how to spot the signs. It is part of the Scottish Government’s £30 million Detect Cancer Early drive, which aims to increase the early detection of cancer by 25 per cent.
It follows an announcement this week that an additional £12 million is being invested in upgrading breast screening equipment across Scotland.
The money will be invested in replacing analogue mammography machines with digital units over the next three years.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon met with breast cancer survivors Jennifer Gossman and Alison Walker to officially launch the breast cancer initiative.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance it can be treated successfully and that is why it is so important that women know how to spot the signs of breast cancer early on.
“We know that this is a bold approach which has not been used before, but women can often be confused about what to look for and it is important that we get the message across that it’s not just lumps that can be a sign of breast cancer.
“More lives can be saved in Scotland through earlier detection, as the cancer can be treated earlier when it is less aggressive and treatment is more likely to be successful.
“I hope that this drive will get people talking about breast cancer, and encourage people to become more aware of the signs and symptoms.”
Elaine C Smith added:
“I am delighted to have been asked to front this ground-breaking campaign to promote breast cancer awareness in Scotland. For too many years women have been confused and scared about what to look for.
“This campaign should help inform people about some of the signs related to breast cancer and encourage them to seek help. I am proud that this campaign will help to educate and inform women and men, because increased awareness will save lives.
“There are few people in Scotland that remain untouched by cancer, either directly or in their circle of family and friends, so anything that helps early detection and treatment can only be a good thing.
“I lost my own mum to breast cancer and I know that if she had seen this campaign she would have known what she was looking for and perhaps visited the doctor and been checked much earlier. For some, the campaign might be shocking but as far as I’m concerned if this saves one life it is absolutely worth it.”
Audrey Birt, Chair of the Scottish Cancer Coalition and Scotland Director of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, is supporting the project. She said:
“We very much welcome this initiative. Detecting breast cancer early improves the chances of successful treatment so it’s important to be breast aware. This simply means knowing what your breasts look and feel like normally, being on the lookout for any unusual changes and getting them checked our by your doctor. Lumps are vital to look out for but there are other important signs too such as changes to size, shape, texture and discharge as well.”
Grandmother-of-two Jennifer Gossman, from West Kilbride in North Ayrshire, knows from personal experience that lumps aren’t the only sign of breast cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago when she spotted a change in her breasts and immediately made an appointment with her GP.
Jennifer, 64, said:
“In February 2009 I had a routine mammogram which came back all clear but a few months later I noticed something that worried me. I was cleaning my teeth before I went in the shower and happened to look in the mirror and notice that my right nipple was slightly flatter than my left one. I then examined it a bit closer and discovered some crusting around the nipple.”
After calling her GP practice immediately, Jennifer was referred to the breast clinic at Crosshouse Hospital for further investigation.
Jennifer underwent a biopsy and ultrasound and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She then underwent a lumpectomy to remove the tumour and the surrounding area. After the lumpectomy, Jennifer was told the cancer had spread to one of the lymph glands, and she began six months of chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy.
“When I found out that I had breast cancer my initial thought was that I had to get it fixed. I was 62 years old when I was diagnosed and I didn’t want to die so I decided that I just had to deal with it. I was determined to be positive.
“Having cancer isn’t a death sentence and people must realise that the prognosis for cancer is much better nowadays. If you spot anything that could be cancer then you need to go to your doctor immediately. My doctor was great and took my concerns very seriously. I’m so glad that I acted on what I found as soon as possible.”
Now, three years on, the cancer has not returned and Jennifer is enjoying an active life and enjoys looking after her granddaughter Anna, 12, and grandson James, aged 17 months.
She said: “I still attend yearly visits to the consultant to get a mammogram but the cancer hasn’t returned. I lead a hectic and enjoyable life. I swim most days, go for long walks, do the gardening and look after my grandchildren.
“It’s the simple things in life that I now appreciate the most. I take great pleasure watching my granddaughter go horse riding and since being diagnosed with cancer I’ve also welcomed my new grandson James into the world.”
Alison Walker, from Edinburgh experienced breast cancer four years ago after noticing a discharge from her nipple. She had two intraductal papillomas on the left and right side of my breasts, which bled. An intraductual papilloma is a small, non-cancerous tumour which grows in the milk duct of the breast.
On both occasions she went to her GP and was referred to the hospital where they carried out a small operation to remove them.
When this happened a third time, Alison went to her GP immediately, who sent her straight to the hospital.
This time, it was not an intraductal papilloma but stage one breast cancer and Alison underwent a lumpectomy followed by radiotherapy.
Alison said: “It is really important to take care of your breasts as breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, so we need to be more breast aware. I think it’s vital to know your body and know how your breasts should look or feel. It then gives you confidence about noticing any changes and seeking professional advice immediately.
“This campaign is all about detecting cancer early and I’m so lucky that my cancer was caught early. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment may be, so we should all be more breast aware.”
The Detect Cancer Early plan aims to save more than 300 lives a year by the end of the next Parliamentary term.
Action from the plan will initially concentrate on tackling the three most common cancers in Scotland – breast, bowel and lung cancer.