So, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is here again. I probably don’t need to tell you that every year in Scotland 4400 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
But what you probably don’t know is how the legacy of breast cancer can affect a person, the impact treatment and its side effects can have for a long time after treatment has been completed. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone drugs can leave a woman with many physical and emotional changes – and these changes can be very tough to deal with. The loss of one or both breasts and hair loss can feel for many women like their femininity has been taken away. It can lead to a loss of confidence, especially around issues such as intimacy and sexuality.
In fact, a recent Breast Cancer Care poll found that 88 per cent of people who have had breast cancer felt the disease and its treatment had a negative impact on the way they now feel about their bodies. In addition, two thirds said it has affected their sexual and intimate relationships. More than half (52 per cent) said they felt uncomfortable undressing in front of a partner.
This is why Breast Cancer Care has launched a major new campaign with powerful images and stories of different women posing to reveal their mastectomy scars, to show that it is possible to find confidence after breast cancer and that there is support available.
After breast cancer surgery, the first time a woman looks at her body can be difficult and for many this doesn’t get easier for a long time. Some women describe feeling “lop-sided” or incomplete.
Finding a well-fitting bra can be challenging, and our lingerie evenings offer the opportunity to be fitted and see how the lingerie looks on volunteer models who have had breast cancer.
Some chemotherapy drugs will cause a person to lose their hair. Breast Cancer Care’s HeadStrong service provides tips on how to look after your hair and scalp before, during and after treatment.
Coming to terms with the side effects of treatment can have a profound effect on the way a woman views her body. Yet many women fear that, compared to the life-threatening nature of their illness, body image issues are trivial. We want our campaign this October to get people talking about this issue, so everyone understands that a change to your body image is not a small price to pay.
Breast Cancer Care wants every person with the disease to get the right support and information. But we can’t do that without your help. And that is why our Pink Fridays fundraising campaign is so important. The vital services I’ve described simply wouldn’t exist without the generous support of the public. It doesn’t matter what you do, you can dress up, host a pink party or just bake some cupcakes to raise funds for Breast Cancer Care – and you’ll help to ensure no one has to face breast cancer alone.
Visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk/pf to get involved.
Hilary Campbell is head of Scotland at Breast Cancer Care