PUBLISHED ON: 14 July 2021

When Jane’s husband had prostate cancer, she learnt a lot about the condition. Through Breast Cancer Now’s public health talks, she ensured she and her friends understood the risks of breast cancer, too. 

Jane and two friends from the Kent International Club going on a socially distanced muddy walk

A lot of older people have similar health concerns 

My husband and I have lived overseas a lot but moved back to England when we retired. I didn’t find it all that easy to settle when I came back, because we didn’t know many people in the area. It was then that I found the Kent International Club, which is an organisation for women who are either from or have lived abroad. 

We have reading groups and walking groups, we play Mahjong and bridge, go on cinema and theatre trips – all sorts of stuff. It really helps bring people together and find support.  

I found the support especially useful about two years ago, when my husband had prostate cancer. 

I wouldn’t mention it all the time but, when speaking with friends, I would occasionally talk about things going on with him, and then they would start telling me about their families and their lives. A significant number of our members are older, so many of them have similar health concerns. 

Breast cancer has affected many of our loved ones 

I learnt a lot when my husband went through treatment, and I wanted to share as much of that information to others as I could, as well as information on other conditions that might be useful to people in our group. 

Shortly after, a bowel cancer charity got in touch with us to do a public health talk, and I started hearing from so many friends who knew people who’d had bowel cancer. It made me realise how common these things are, and various members of the group actually asked me if we could do more events like that. 

Breast cancer kept being mentioned as something we might discuss. 

So many people know someone who has had breast cancer, simply because it’s so common (one in seven women will get it at some point), and we all just wanted to know more. 

So, I emailed the person who did that first talk, and asked him if he knew of a charity or organisation who could help us with an online event. He very helpfully put me in touch with Breast Cancer Now, and they helped me from there. 

We all learnt so much about the disease 

Our talk was delivered on Zoom by Hedwig, a public health volunteer. 

Hedwig’s manner and attitude ensured the session went really well. She was so approachable and easy to talk to, and she’d put the presentation together so well. Even when there were queries she couldn’t answer immediately, she made sure to follow up with us by the next afternoon. 

The actual talk was 45 minutes long, and then we had about half an hour for questions. We learnt so much in that time

Perhaps one of the most astounding things we learnt was that breast cancer risk increases with age. Many of us had believed the opposite. Another statistic that stood out was that 80% of breast cancer cases occur in people over 50. 

One of the really helpful parts of the talk was about misconceptions. It was mentioned then that underwired bras do not cause breast cancer, and I had always believed that they do. We also learned that it is possible to still have breast cancer screenings if you are over 70; you just have to request them. 

This information should be shared as widely as possible 

After Hedwig left, we continued chatting within our group. It was great for prompting discussion. 

One of our members wrote up the key points of the talk, and we also got sent some really handy leaflets by email from Breast Cancer Now. I thought that the information was so nicely set up with easy-to-understand infographics and drawings.  

I made sure to send those to everyone who couldn’t make it that night, as well as all my friends, as I wanted to share the information with as many people as I could. We also put a summary of the talk in our newsletter. 

During the time that my husband has been unwell, I've lost two friends to cancer. One had a recurrence of breast cancer that had unfortunately become secondary, and another friend of mine had ovarian cancer. 

Even with all the treatments that are available, just knowing what to look out for is so important. 

Booking a talk is so simple, everyone should do it 

To anyone considering booking a talk, I’d say absolutely do it. You may think you already know about breast cancer, especially if you’re a woman, but there will definitely be some surprises. And what you do find out may be incredibly useful. It’s certainly made our group more diligent about checking for symptoms.  

I knew a little bit about breast cancer before we had our talk. I knew, for example, that men and young women could get it, and I knew some of the signs and symptoms – but not all. 

I was quite taken aback by how much I didn’t know.  

I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent, well-informed person – but it seems to me that much of this information just isn’t out there. I hadn’t seen this sort of information in doctors’ waiting rooms or newspapers or the sorts of places you’d expect it to be. 

However, the feedback I have had about the events has been brilliant. Everyone has learnt a lot and been really appreciative. Hedwig has actually joined the Kent International Club as well now, which has been lovely! 

 

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