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Elaine C Smith cancer advert banned in New Zealand

Elaine C Smith fronts the breast cancer awareness advert screened last year. Picture: Complimentary

Elaine C Smith fronts the breast cancer awareness advert screened last year. Picture: Complimentary

Images from a ground-breaking television advertising campaign designed to raise awareness of breast cancer have been banned from screens in New Zealand.

The hard-hitting advert, featuring actress and comedienne Elaine C Smith, was the first in the UK to show real pictures of women’s breasts affected by cancer.

The campaign, which had to be shown after the 9pm watershed in Scotland, resulted in a 50 per cent rise in the number of women contacting their GP about the disease.

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation (NZBCF) had wanted to show the images of breasts from the Scottish advert as part of a television campaign there.

But the country’s Commercial Approval Bureau (CAB) advised the health campaigners that nipples were not permitted in TV adverts in New Zealand.

As a result, the NZBCF was forced to use strategically placed pot plants, balloons and cupcakes in its Naked Truth campaign.

Van Henderson, NZBCF chief executive, said they had wanted to use the images from the Scottish adverts so women could know more about the signs of breast cancer.

Mrs Henderson said: “Around half of the breast cancers in New Zealand are first detected through a symptom that the woman notices, yet only 5 per cent of women are aware that puckering or dimpling of the skin can be a symptom, and only 2 per cent know an inverted nipple may mean breast cancer.”

She added: “We believe the importance of knowing all the signs and symptoms far outweighs the CAB’s concern, and we wanted women to know exactly what those signs look like.”

The advert, first screened in Scotland last September, showed Rab C Nesbitt star Smith holding a series of placards with images of breasts affected by cancer.

In the three months between September and November, 21,000 women contacted their GP about breast cancer symptoms - 50 per cent more than the 13,900 who did so in the same period of 2011.

The advert stressed that lumps are not the only sign that someone may be suffering from breast cancer, with women being urged to check for signs such as a change in breast shape or size, an unusual pain in their breast, a change in the skin such as dimpling, puckering or reddening, and any changes to their nipples.

Edinburgh woman Janet Brodie went to her doctor after seeing the advert as she realised she had some of the signs of breast cancer.

Five tumours were found and the 54-year-old is now in recovery after having two operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“That advert saved my life,” Ms Brodie said.

She praised the campaign for its “different” approach, saying it was “so straight to the point, you were in no doubt what you were looking for”.

She recalled: “It caught my attention because I really like Elaine C Smith. I had been experiencing pain in my breast but I didn’t think it could be cancer until the advert.”

Just a few days later she noticed another of the symptoms in the advert, and went to her doctor.

Ms Brodie, who works in accounts, said it was “quite tragic” that the images could not be shown in New Zealand.

“We’re in the 21st century and If it helps one person to go to their doctor and do what they’ve got to do, if it saves one person’s life, it should be shown,” she said.

Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil said he was “extremely thankful” that Clearcast, which approves adverts on behalf of clients ensuring they meet the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice code, had “understood the important role public health campaigns play in getting people talking about breast cancer and making them more aware of the signs and symptoms”.

He added: “By airing this advert, the first ad in the UK to show real pictures of women’s breasts with visible signs of breast cancer, Scotland has led the way with innovative and thought-provoking public health campaigns.”

Mr Neil said: “We created this campaign to address the stark fact that breast cancer that affects more women in Scotland than any cancer type.

“We know that the earlier a cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat and as women themselves play an important part in early detection, it is vital that they know how to spot the signs of breast cancer.

“We took a bold approach to our breast cancer campaign as we recognised that women can often be confused about what to look for and we wanted to get the message across that lumps aren’t the only sign of breast cancer.”

 

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