In this post we take a look at the achievements of our work encouraging women to Touch Look Check.

This blog is part four of a series exploring the achievements of Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, as both charities work towards launching as one brand new charity.  Our last post looked at a study we fund that spans generations and is trying to understand the root causes of breast cancer.  In this post we take a look at the achievements of our work encouraging women to Touch Look Check.

More than a message

In 2005, Breakthrough Breast Cancer developed a breast awareness message called Touch Look Check (TLC). It was developed in house, by our staff, who wanted to give women a clear, simple message to encourage them to check their breasts, as well as information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Since then the message has been reviewed and updated but the basic information remains the same – check your breasts regularly and be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

The award-winning TLC message has been widely acclaimed by health professionals, behaviour change specialists and women themselves. Building on this success, we’ve developed innovative ways to ensure more and more women get this vital information, and in 2010 we launched our breast awareness app called iBreastCheck.

Women told us that they needed more information on how they should be checking their breasts so by including a video, we can show how other women check, and help them become more confident in what they are doing themselves.  Our last analysis showed that iBreastCheck has been downloaded over 50,000 times, and the video viewed over half a million times since it was released.

The warning signs

In 2013, we launched the ‘Five signs’ campaign – an initiative to inform women that breast cancer is not always a lump. Our research showed that only two percent of women were checking for at least five key warning signs and symptoms of breast cancer. As a consequence, many instances of breast cancer may end up being detected late.  We saw this as a real problem as the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better chance you have of beating the disease.

The Five signs campaign aimed to address this lack of knowledge by providing women with a free TLC guide, which they can get posted to them by sending a text (something we called “text-to-get”). To date, there have been around 62 million opportunities to see (a measure of the number of times someone is likely to see a particular advert) the key message of the campaign; “Do you know the five signs of breast cancer?”, and nearly 100,000 people have received a TLC guide.

Since the start of this campaign, the number of women in the general population checking for at least five signs of breast cancer has risen to 8 percent. The biggest increase in knowledge was in the 35-44 year old age group, suggesting that we are helping women at a younger age understand what to look for, which will hopefully aid in improving early detection of breast cancer.

Helping others

We haven’t been able to achieve any of this on our own. We work with supporters, the media and our partners to ensure the TLC message reaches as many women as possible and as cost effectively as possible. For example, our long term partner M&S has helped push the messaging out over the last five years in stores across the country.

We have also worked closely with the Department of Health and Public Health England to support their messaging campaigns.  We were key advisors on the expert group that helped the Department of Health develop the breast cancer part of their Be Clear on Cancer campaign.  We’ve also taken our expertise to Scotland and helped the Scottish Government pull together sections of their Detect Cancer Early campaign – a campaign many of you may remember as it dared to feature images of real breasts in a TV advert.

So is it working?

In 2005, 45 percent of women said they didn’t check their breasts because they didn’t know how. In 2014, that figure was just 17 percent, and we believe that our successful work promoting TLC’s simple health message has contributed greatly.  The main reason that women don’t check regularly now is that they forget.  This is why we’ll keep reminding women just how important it is to regularly check their breasts, so if they are diagnosed, it’s caught early – something that could make all the difference.

About the author


Eluned Hughes is Head of the Public Health and Information team at Breast Cancer Now.

She has a Masters in Biochemistry and in Science Communication, and has dedicated her career to creating innovative and evidence-based health information and public health campaigns.