To create a world without breast cancer
Breast Cancer Prevention Scotland is an organisation run entirely by a group of volunteers who are passionate about preventing breast cancer.
We believe that it’s time to change the conversation about why the incidence of breast cancer continues to increase, why more younger women are being diagnosed and why only 23% of breast cancers are considered to be preventable.
But what about the other 77%? Evidence suggests that the environment in which we live and work and the chemicals that surround us on a daily basis are putting us at increasing risk of developing breast cancer. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 7% and 19% of all cancers are due to toxic environmental exposure. 4% of cancers are the direct result of occupational exposure.
We want this to change.
We want more people to know and understand these risks.
We need your help to do that.
We have set ourselves some goals, they are deliberately BIG, HAIRY and AUDACIOUS.
By 2030 we will:
- Educate 1M people about the preventable risks of breast cancer
- Ensure that provision is made in the Scottish annual health budget to addressing the occupational and environmental risks of Breast Cancer
- Campaign for equality in the accessibility and cost of ‘clean products’
- Identify and advocate for the elimination of modifiable occupational and environmental risks
- Ensure Scottish Government’s health promotion messages give equal emphasis to occupational and environmental risks of breast cancer.
- Advocate on all aspects of breast cancer including screening, secondary BC Symptoms, post mastectomy pain, other post operative conditions and consistent access to treatment
- Continue to operate in a cost effective and efficient manner to ensure a minimum of 90% of the income we generate is used to support our goals
In 1994, 3,231 women in Scotland were diagnosed with breast cancer.
One of these women concluded that breast cancer services in Scotland were seriously underfunded. Most disturbingly, it transpired that 7 of the 11 clinical oncologists working in Scotland at that time were funded by national charities. In addition, a woman’s chance of survival in Scotland was lower than in the rest of Europe. A campaign was born.
Fifteen breast cancer activists[i] joined forces that year and together they raised a petition to the Westminster Government[ii] for increased funding for breast cancer services and essential research, specifically into the environmental links to breast cancer. On 7 February 1995, the group presented a petition of over 150,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street, where the Right Honourable John Major was in residence. On the back of this success and with a huge amount of financial support from the public, local councils and trade unions, the Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign was officially launched as a company, limited by guarantee.
The petition attracted much press activity and, not surprisingly, interest from across the whole of the UK. Capitalising on this momentum, a National Pink Postcard Campaign was launched, again demanding increased funding for services and environmental research. This time over 500,000 postcards were delivered to Downing Street on 31 October of the same year.
By 1996, with significant amounts of unsolicited charitable funding, the Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign was in full swing. The Campaign had an official logo and a pink tartan ribbon to highlight its unique nature – SBCC was, and still is, the only independent advocacy organisation in Scotland. With a relatively small committee (although by today’s standards, quite large!) the Campaign was promoted with banners across the High Streets of our major cities, ‘advertising’ campaigns on the sides of buses and flower displays in Princes Street gardens.
In addition, some members of the Board attended meetings in London and breast cancer conferences across Europe – the former to highlight the need for increased funding from central government and the latter to gain knowledge on the advances in breast cancer treatment and to network with our European sisters.
By the end of the twentieth century, breast cancer services in Scotland had substantially improved, with quick access to multidisciplinary clinics being the norm. These were the facts reported by the Scottish Government but was this the reality? To try to gauge the views of the women themselves, SBCC embarked on the mammoth task of doing its own market research. Armed with a four-page questionnaire (and numerous city street maps!), two Board members took to the roads of Scotland to distribute Questionnaire 2000. The results were collated and, once more, SBCC lobbied government to address the issues raised by many of the women who responded to the questionnaire, as it transpired that there were still some anomalies in services across the country.
By 2012, the landscape of breast cancer had changed considerably. Patients had a greater say on many services within the NHS, with patient representation positively encouraged by all health boards. In addition, many of the larger breast cancer charities had taken up the cause of patients’ rights and, with their huge budgets and full time staff, were eminently placed to lobby government.
SBCC, however, continued to highlight issues which the larger charities seemed reluctant to address, most noticeably the environmental links to breast cancer. The larger charities also seemed disinclined to champion the ethos of “informed choice” – unless, of course, the choice coincided with government policy. Therefore, there was still plenty of campaigning work for SBCC – or, as it became in 2012, Challenge Breast Cancer Scotland.[iii]
Recent years have seen huge changes, not only in the issues which concern women, but also in the way organisations, in general, and campaigning groups, in particular, operate. It is no longer necessary to pound the streets, rattle cans, or grab newspaper headlines to gain support. Love it or hate, social media is the way forward and to this end 2018 saw a huge restructuring of the Campaign and a push to gain support ‘electronically’.
Also, although we keep our eye on the provision of breast cancer services and treatment options, we believe that the time is ripe to concentrate more on the environmental links to breast cancer. The 21st century has brought into sharp focus the dangers of environmental pollution – in particular the plastic epidemic which is working its way with alarming speed up through our food chain.
Our new name, Breast Cancer Prevention Scotland, reflects this renewed focus. We no longer need more research into the environmental links to breast cancer. The science is here, now and it must be acted upon. Regardless of the advances in the treatment of breast cancer and the improved services, unless and until we address the primary prevention of this disease, women will continue to suffer from the debilitating effects of this life-threatening disease.
The Campaign was born in 1994 to help the 3,231 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer that year: in 2019, for the 4,636[iv] women diagnosed with breast cancer, the Campaign lives on.
[i] Audrey Jones, David Miller, Alwynne Carmichael, Paul Newman, Ruth Millar, Liz Scott, Elizabeth Quinn, Pauline Elliott, Suzanne Wotherspoon, Ann Alexander, Dorothy Murray, Violet Carter, Norman Rollo, Anne Woodcock, and Evelyn Dymock.
[ii] Pre devolution, although health, even at that time, was a devolved issue.
[iii] Around this time, new charity legislation was introduced in Scotland. Under the new guidelines, SBCC could become a registered Scottish charity. Unfortunately, the Breast Cancer Campaign, a UK London based charity, had also applied for Scottish charitable status and the name of the Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign was deemed to be too similar to Breast Cancer Campaign so, very reluctantly, we were ‘obliged’ to change our name.
[iv] 2016 latest figure available from ISD Scotland.