Inspired by Kylie, thousands help in breast cancer battle
CANCER charities are reporting a rush of donations following Kylie Minogue’s announcement that she has breast cancer, including fans donating refunds from tickets for the star’s cancelled world tour.
Breast Cancer Care UK said there has been a significant increase in the sale of pink wristbands, the proceeds from which go to breast cancer support and research.
Calls to the charity’s helpline have also doubled as women of Kylie’s age try to find out how to check their breasts for lumps.
Other charities in Britain and Australia said the news of Kylie’s diagnosis was prompting thousands of fans to make donations and pledge support.
Fans who had tickets for the Showgirl tour, which was cancelled after the star discovered the cancer, forgot their disappointment to give the refunds to charity.
Emma Pennery, a nurse consultant with Breast Cancer Care, said the openness of Kylie would encourage more women to check their breasts regularly.
She added: "Hopefully people will be more aware of breast cancer. This sort of thing raises awareness, especially in young women in their 30s."
Approximately 40,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Despite breakthroughs in treatment such as the drug Tamoxifen, 13,000 women a year still die. Tens of millions of pounds spent on research has still not unlocked the full secrets of the disease.
Doctors say the good news is that, if caught early, breast cancer is no longer the death sentence it used to be. Since 1977, when just 52 per cent of victims survived the disease, survival rates have soared to about 80 per cent. Doctors put the increase down to: improved chemotherapy, which is now more likely to stop the cancer spreading; hormone therapy, which can stop the cancer returning; better rates of detection through the national screening programme; and increased awareness through the support of public figures such as the Prime Minister’s wife, Cherie Blair, athlete Denise Lewis, rock star Anastacia and former supermodel Jerry Hall, among others.
Hundreds of scientists around the world are testing new treatments.
Cancer Research UK alone spends 20 million on breast cancer research out of a total budget of 176 million.
Ms Pennery welcomed increased support for charities to continue researching the best drugs and providing support. She said the NHS provided a breast health nurse and consultant but charities also provided extra support through websites, support groups and helplines.
"The bottom line is the quality of communication that health care professionals provide can vary and some breast clinics are very busy," she said. "That is not to say they do not give good care, but sometimes women need to access care over and above that."
Tumours are caused by an uncontrolled growth of breast cells in the milk-producing glands or in the ducts that deliver milk to the nipples.
Some breast cancers may spread into surrounding tissue and can also spread to other parts of the body. Men can also get breast cancer, but it is rare, with only about 300 cases a year.
Doctors believe a number of factors increase the risk of contracting the disease. The biggest factor (apart from gender) is age - eight out of ten breast cancer cases involve women who have gone through the menopause.
The biggest ever investigation of the causes of breast cancer was launched last year. It will track 100,000 adult women for 50 years.
The Breakthrough Generations Study aims to discover what effect diet, lifestyle and childbirth have on the disease.
Scientists believe that there is still scope for about half the breast cancer cases in Britain to be prevented. Findings on diet could be crucial - it is already known that obese women appear to be at greater risk.
Some mainstream cancer experts are now also working with advocates of complementary treatments such as herbs, diet and aromatherapy to identify which approaches are most promising.
But experts say women can do a lot to help themselves. The most important factor is to be "breast aware". In Britain, women over the age of 50 are invited by their GP to have mammograms every two to three years.
Younger women must keep an eye on their breasts themselves in order to detect the disease. The condition is usually found through a lump in the breast area but can also be spotted by a puckering of the flesh, changes in the nipple or discharge.
Once breast cancer has been detected, people are usually referred through their GP to a specialist in hospital because, the earlier the disease is detected, the better the chances of survival.
The aim of treatment for early breast cancer is to remove the cancer from the breast and armpit area and to destroy any cancer cells which may have spread to other parts of the body but cannot be detected.
Usually, this involves "breast conserving surgery", a lumpectomy to remove a growth, or mastectomy to remove the whole breast. The cosmetic impact is minimised with reconstructive surgery.
After surgery the majority of women will have chemotherapy to make sure none of the cancer has successfully spread from the breast to other parts of the body.
However, chemotherapy can affect fertility and although it is possible to freeze embryos or eggs, most women do not want to do anything that will delay treatment or increase their risk.
Women can also receive radiotherapy as part of their treatment and hormone therapy, such as Tamoxifen, to ensure the cancer does not come back.
Five years after diagnosis is considered a landmark in surviving the disease, but it is a myth that women can ever consider themselves completely clear of breast cancer, which can recur at any time.
However, with each passing year, the risk diminishes.
Depending on the type of her cancer, Kylie Minogue will receive one or a combination of all treatments.
What many health activists have termed "the modern plague" has actually been known since Egyptian times and has been blamed for the deaths of 25 million women.
FROM RUNNING, TO WRISTBANDS, TO STRAWBERRY TEA PARTIES, YOU CAN HELP
THOSE thinking about helping the fight against breast cancer need not look far this summer - there is a host of events planned to raise money to fight the disease.
Running enthusiasts can raise money for Breast Cancer Care UK in the Edinburgh Marathon on 12 June or the Great Scottish Run half-marathon on 4 September.
Runners can also participate in the Race for Life, which will hold events at various venues in Scotland this month and next. Information can be found at www.raceforlife.org.
Those hoping for a more leisurely way to raise money can organise a Strawberry Tea Party during the Wimbledon fortnight for Breast Cancer Care UK.
People hoping to make a more immediate impact can buy a pink wristband for 1 at fundraising.breastcancercare.org.uk/Shop.
Cash donations can be made through Breast Cancer Care on 0207 384 2984. Text "Pink" to 83338 to donate 1.50 via your mobile.
Donations to Cancer Research UK can also be made through www.cancerresearchuk.org/breastcancer.
Meanwhile, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Public plays a vital part in providing counselling services
EVERY year we respond to over two million requests for support and information about breast cancer or breast health concerns and all of our services are free.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer, whatever your age, can be a worrying and emotional time. Family and friends can be a huge help, but sometimes you need to talk to someone who is not so closely involved in your life.
Breast Cancer Care’s free and confidential helpline is staffed by nurses with specialist knowledge and fully-trained volunteers, many of whom have had breast cancer themselves. They are at the other end of the line, ready to listen to women and men with breast cancer or breast health concerns, as well as being there to support their family and friends too.
Just 19 pays for one call to our specialist helpline, so donations are hugely important in ensuring that we can continue to offer this vital service. Last year, we personally answered over 19,000 calls, so the helpline cost us 361,000 to run.
Just 40 pays for one hour of our "ask the nurse" service. This is a confidential website service where people who don’t want to talk over the phone can e-mail questions to our specialist nurses and have a reply in 24 hours. Just 5 pays for 25 specialist publications written by the experts, with input from women with breast cancer, and 11 pays for a month’s cost of our trained one-to-one volunteers.
Breast Cancer Care’s website provides 24-hour support and information. The ask-the-nurse service and chat forums are important resources for people who find it difficult to verbalise their feelings or who feel isolated and want to share experiences or ask questions at any time of the day or night.
The charity also provides many other free services for people affected by breast cancer, including publications, one-to-one emotional support, younger women’s forums and "healthy living" days. Without donations from the public, we would not be able to provide these free services.
Marcus O’Shea is the head of fundraising at Breast Cancer Care.
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