Spreading the breast awareness message

A charity has teamed up with health experts and school girls in a project to raise awareness about the benefits of early detection of breast cancer.

The project aims to increase awareness of the disease but more importantly to teach women how to check for it and highlight the importance of seeing your doctor if you think something is wrong.

And the Newham Recorder is backing the campaign championed by campaigning care group Community Links.

More than 70 girls from Plashet School have volunteered to be Young Lifesavers with Community Links’ Breast Cancer Awareness Project which is led and funded by NHS East London and the City.

The girls will be creating a range of fun resources to share the breast cancer awareness messages with their mums and other women family members.

They plan to sing a song and stage short role plays on the theme of overcoming the fear and embarrassment of going to the doctor with suspicious symptoms. They are also planning to create leaflets.

The project has also enlisted the help of former students of the school, in Plashet Grove, East Ham who have been telling the next generation of students and their families about the life-saving importance of checking for the disease.

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Many are now medical or bio-medcial students who have become involved because they are so passionate about the project and their former school.

They have already led assemblies and lessons at Plashet School with Year 9 and 10 students and are spreading the message throughout the community at coffee mornings.

One of the volunteers is Nida Thamenah, 19, who left Plashet in 2007. She is now at Kings College London studying for a Biomedical Science degree.

She said: “I wanted to be involved in this project because, despite the fact that we have drugs and other treatments that can successfully treat breast cancer, women are dying because they don’t have the information to empower and save themselves. I feel very optimistic about this project because in the few classes we’ve taught so far, I feel the girls have really taken in the information and recognised its worth. By educating some 500 girls on breast cancer, they will tell their family and friends and we can reach more people than we can imagine.”

Sarojini Ariyanayagam, Health Improvement Manager of NHS East London and the City, attended a meeting to tell the girls about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

She said: “I was keen that they understand not just for themselves but also that they take the message home to their mums, aunts and grandmothers.” She also taught the girls how to examine themselves. “It is vital that young women get into the habit of self examination, that they make it a routine that stays with them for life.”

Project manager Frances Clarke who has suffered with the disease, said: “Women are more likely to die of breast cancer if they don’t know the warning signs, or are too scared or busy to go see the doctor. Teaching teenagers about the dangers of breast cancer not only prepares them for later life but also means they can pass on the message to the older women in their families.

“Many women know that it is sensible to do regular breast self examinations but still we don’t do it.” Research has shown that only 22 per cent of women regularly checked their breasts (once a month).

“I discovered that I had breast cancer seven years ago, purely by chance. I didn’t do self exams myself. I was very lucky indeed, the cancer was in the early stages and I was able to be treated and return to work within months.”

Firoza Nekiwala, a councillor is a former Plashet School pupil. She is also a volunteer with the project. She said: “Education and women’s causes are very close to my heart. Having the opportunity to go back to my original roots of success, this time not to learn but to teach awareness of breast cancer will mean local residents will have that extra helping hand in being able to understand the importance of their health.”