Open your eyes

breast cancer awareness

Yesterday evening I was a guest speaker at an event ‘Women at the Brink’ hosted by Jennifer Hartstone of the Shabby-Chic Clothes Agency. Jen organised this event to promote her business and also raise money for the UK charity Yes to Life who help cancer patients (and who helped me during my treatment), and she invited me to speak at the event. Thank you Jen for the opportunity.

I talked about ‘What do you really know about breast cancer?’ Based on my increasing knowledge of the subject, I wanted to raise ‘awareness’ of some truths about breast cancer that we don’t always get to hear. Although yes sometimes I am bored of the subject too, and wondered whether my specialist subject could be gardening or knitting instead. However I still enjoy talking about my opinions and changing people’s perceptions about breast cancer. For the event I produced a limited edition of a small book – The little book of BIG FACTS about breast cancer.

Wonderful though the internet is I’m not able to share the book in the delightful book format, including pink ‘ribbon’ closure detail – which can be ripped or slipped of depending on the feeling of the recipient –  however the text of the booklet is reproduced here:


You’re aware of breast cancer, right? You know someone who’s been treated. Your friend, your mother, your sister, your aunt, your daughter… too many women, and small though increasing numbers of men.

There are factors associated with increasing risk of breast cancer and certain factors that decrease the risk of breast cancer, but we do not know how to prevent breast cancer.

In the UK in 2008 nearly 48,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 12,000 died from the disease.

The lifetime statistic for breast cancer in women in the UK is 1 in 8.

The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is age.

Mammography is a screening test to detect cancer already present in the breast. It does not prevent cancer, nor will it definitively detect the disease.

About 5% to 10% of breast cancer is due to genetics – a family history of the disease. MOST breast cancer isn’t genetic.

We don’t know how to prevent breast cancer.

What is metastatic breast cancer?

Metastatic breast cancer is the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body, most commonly to the bones, liver, lungs and brain. At present, the disease is not considered survivable. It is incurable.

No one dies from breast cancer that remains in the breast. The spread of cancerous cells is what kills. This is called metastatic breast cancer.

Between 20% and 30% of people initially diagnosed with breast cancer will develop metastatic breast cancer.

Early detection is NOT a cure. Metastatic breast cancer can occur ANY time after an original diagnosis.

Breast cancer rates continue to increase, year after year.

There is NO CURE for breast cancer.


Breast cancer charities spend up to 40% of the money raised on their own costs (have a look at their accounts – and see my blog post Show me the money). You can ask:

  • What happens to the money that does make it to the cause?
  • Is it doing anything worthwhile for women with, or at risk for breast cancer?

The huge amount of pink ribbon fundraising helps contribute to a sense that the “problem is solved”, though this is clearly not the case. As long as consumers think they’re doing something meaningful about breast cancer by participating in these campaigns, the real work that need to be done around treatment, prevention, and access to care will continue to be under-funded and ignored.

Source: Think Before You Pink

You want to find out more? 

Breast Cancer Action
US based Breast Cancer Action carries the voices of people affected by breast cancer to inspire and compel the changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic.

Think Before You Pink
A project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions.

Pink Ribbon Blues
Author Gayle Sulik writes her blog here. Plus excellent resources for anyone wanting to explore pink ribbon culture.

Being Sarah
Find out more about me here, read extracts from the book and see some films.

Breast Cancer Fund
US based organisation that works to connect the dots between breast cancer and exposures to chemicals and radiation in our everyday environments. Their State of the Evidence report, available to download, brings together all the current scientific research on environmental links to breast cancer and is incredibly informative.

The Cancer Culture Chronicles
Opinionated blog from my friend Rach who is living with metastatic breast cancer.

National Breast Cancer Coalition
NBBC have set a deadline to end breast cancer by 2020. During October they are listing one breast cancer truth each day.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN)
MBCN is a US based, independent, patient-led, non-profit, advocacy group dedicated to the unique concerns of the women and men living with metastatic breast cancer.

Who made this book?

This book was made by Sarah Horton, author of Being Sarah.

Sarah has been treated for breast cancer, diagnosed age 43, nearly five years ago. If you’ve read this book then you’ll know that doesn’t mean she’s cured and may still die from the disease.

Sarah’s book – Being Sarah, a true story about choice control and breast cancer – was Highly Commended by the British Medical Association (BMA) 2011 Medical Book Awards.

During October 2011 there will be daily posts on Sarah’s blog. (This is one of them).

If you’re concerned about these truths then please have a look at the other websites listed here, and start finding out more about moving beyond awareness. Come and join the conversation. You’ll be very welcome.

If you are worried about any symptoms or concerns about your health, you should discuss them with your doctor.

8 thoughts on “Open your eyes

    • Hi Shelli – your wish is my command! I’m going to make a downloadable pdf with folding instructions – it’s made from a single sheet of paper! Watch this space!
      Glad you like it!
      Best, Sarah

  1. Sarah, I love the name of that agency! I would be interested in that donwloadable pdf as well. This is information that everyone should see, including celebrities who spout off words without thinking. Brava! Jan

  2. I bet your audience enjoyed your talk last evening. What a wonderful idea to have a little booklet like this you can pass out. The little book of big facts – having some major facts and a few resources presented so concisely – what a help it will be. Great title too!

  3. Pingback: 28. The Intervention Begins With Us! «

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