Stars inspire women to check for breast cancer

Stars such as Kylie Minogue have inspired more women to check for signs of breast cancer. Picture: Jane Barlow
Stars such as Kylie Minogue have inspired more women to check for signs of breast cancer. Picture: Jane Barlow
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NEARLY half of UK women say hearing celebrity and real-life stories about breast cancer inspires them to examine their own breasts more frequently, according to new research.

Singers Kylie Minogue, Sheryl Crow, Marianne Faithfull and Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon are among the famous names to have spoken out about their battles with breast cancer in recent years.

Now, new research has revealed 41 per cent of women in the UK are inspired by the stories of others to regularly examine their own breasts for signs of the life-threatening disease.

The study, by the Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign UK, also found hearing the experiences of others with breast cancer led to a quarter of women donating money or becoming involved with breast cancer research.

The survey further revealed that 83 per cent of women believe talking helps people to come to terms with breast cancer, but two in five women (39 per cent) said they would not talk about a diagnosis for fear of upsetting others.

The figure was even higher for 18-24 year olds, with 50 per cent saying would not tell others about a breast cancer diagnosis and a quarter saying they would be “too scared” to share stories.

One in ten women in the YouGov survey of 2,000 participants said they were moved to research their own risk of the disease after hearing the stories of others.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Scotland. Around 4,500 women in Scotland learn they have breast cancer every year. More than 1,000 women died from breast cancer in this country last year.

The findings of the survey mark October’s status as Breast Cancer Awareness month.

The 2014 campaign is centred on an uplifting call to action – “Hear our stories. Share yours.” – which aims to create a global community of strength and support for people whose lives have been touched by breast cancer, through digital storytelling.

The BCA Campaign’s YouGov survey found that 55 per cent of participants said it didn’t matter whether it was an ordinary person or celebrity that spoke of their experiences but that hearing any stories was important.

To understand the power of breast cancer stories in more detail, storytelling consultancy Storyworks was commissioned to conduct a workshop with breast cancer survivors.

The session was led by Karen Lewis, researcher and Co-Director of GEE Centre for Storytelling at the University of South Wales.

She said: “Storytelling is an age-old practice, which is why the stories of everyday women are so resonant. Our storytelling session confirmed that women who have had, or currently have, breast cancer benefit enormously from sharing their stories with each other and with the wider community.

“Every person touched by breast cancer has a different experience and set of resources to draw upon. Breast cancer stories serve as a powerful source of strength, education and motivation to act, which is why more women should be encouraged to speak up.”

Chris Good of Estée Lauder said: “Our findings underpin our campaign’s focus on the importance of authentic storytelling and the power this can have in raising awareness about breast cancer.”