Blog

23Oct

wear it pink for Breast Cancer Now - Guest Blog

Katie Goates, Senior Research Communications Officer at Breast Cancer Now, gives us the lowdown on the UK's most colourful awareness day.

wear it pink for Breast Cancer Now - Guest Blog

The UK’s biggest breast cancer fundraiser, wear it pink, is back on Friday 23rd October, and will see the nation coming together to raise vital funds needed for research into breast cancer.

Each year, Breast Cancer Now’s flagship fundraiser sees hundreds of thousands of people across the country raise money for breast cancer research by holding pink-inspired fundraising events. For a small donation supporters can choose from hundreds of ways to wear it pink, be it in the workplace, at home or at school.

We do this because every year more than 50,000 mothers, daughters, sisters and wives will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer. Sadly, nearly 12,000 women are still dying every year in the UK, while millions continue to live with the long term impact of the disease.

Funding research by wearing pink

Since the firstwear it pinkin 2002, more than £27 million has been raised going towards the cutting-edge research carried out by Breast Cancer Now scientists.

It’s a simple concept, but wear it pink makes a huge difference to the levels of research we’re able to fund each year.  The money raised helps us get ever closer to achieving our ambitions in each of the four key areas we focus on – risk and prevention, early detection and diagnosis, treatment, and secondary breast cancer.

Prevention

So the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. This is true for breast cancer, but the challenge in preventing the disease is a great one. At Breast Cancer Now, we believe that if we act now, by the year 2050 we’ll be able to prevent 30% of breast cancer cases. This means that thousands of people will never have to hear the words: “it’s breast cancer.”

Money raised by wear it pink will help us find new ways to prevent breast cancer, as well as helping us improve on what we already know can stop the disease.  For example, we’re funding projects in Manchester and London to find out who benefits most from drugs that can reduce the risk of getting breast cancer, as well as testing an existing drug to see if it can prevent the disease.

We also know that if everyone could maintain a healthy weight, be more active and drink less alcohol we could prevent up to four out of ten breast cancers.  That’s why at Breast Cancer Now we are dedicated to providing clear information on how people’s lifestyle affects their risk, and how they can make a change. We also aim to collaborate with the government and other organisations to make sure people are given as much help as possible to live a healthy life that lowers their risk of breast cancer.

Early detection and diagnosis

For those whose breast cancer we can't yet prevent, the aim is to treat it effectively – and this is where early detection and diagnosis is critical. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the better the chances of survival.

In the UK about one third of all breast tumours – roughly 16,000 a year – are picked up through the NHS Breast Screening Programme, so it’s vital we make sure breast screening is fit for purpose. To help achieve this goal, Breast Cancer Now is funding research to understand whether younger women at increased risk of breast cancer should receive mammograms or not.

We also need to make the most of new developments in screening technology, such as our research project that is analysing images from a new type of ‘3D mammogram’ to measure breast density. The ratio of dense breast structures to fatty tissue in the breast is linked to breast cancer risk, so this work could help to provide more accurate information about a woman’s breast density, and in turn risk of breast cancer.

In addition to mammography screening, in vitro diagnostics plays an increasingly important role in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of breast cancer. The study of biopsied tissue under a microscope for evidence of cancerous cells and tissue invasion greatly aids diagnosis, whilst determining the Her2, oestrogen and progesterone receptor status of a tumour is commonly used to guide treatment and prognosis. Increasingly, genomic testing is used to look at the activity of certain genes to provide additional information about the biology of an individual breast cancer. These IVD tests allow predictive and prognostic evidence to be obtained, leading to improved personalised treatment and reducing the use of costly treatments that may be ineffective for some women and result in unnecessary side effects.

Treatment

Everyone diagnosed with breast cancer is offered treatments to help eradicate or slow down the growth of their cancer, but with nearly 12,000 women in the UK dying from breast cancer every year, it’s clear we still need to improve the treatments that patients receive.

We now know that breast cancer comes in many forms, each driven by different processes within the cancer cells. So a major challenge is finding more tailored treatments for each of these types of breast cancer. For some types of the disease we already have some tailored treatments, matched to specific patients through the use of companion diagnostics, but for others, such as aggressive ‘triple-negative’ breast cancer, we still need to understand what is driving the disease and how to target that driver. This is why Breast Cancer Now has a research unit at King’s College London dedicated to triple-negative breast cancer research.

However, the new treatments that need to be developed will not immediately replace the ones we already have, and so we need to continue to improve these too.

Secondary breast cancer

Nearly 1,000 women in the UK die of breast cancer every month and almost all of those deaths will be from secondary breast cancer – that is breast cancer that’s spread to other parts of the body. At present, secondary breast cancer is not curable, but Breast Cancer Now aims to change this by ramping up research efforts to stop women dying from the disease.

To speed up research in secondary breast cancer we have supported a ground-breaking study to give researchers access to tissue and blood samples from patients at every stage of the disease. The Breast Cancer Now LEGACY Study is collecting secondary tumour tissue as quickly as possible after a patient dies, and matching these tissues with earlier samples taken from the same women along with information about the treatments that did and didn’t work for them. These samples and information are vital for researchers to be able to understand how secondary breast cancer develops.

The LEGACY study also represents huge commitment and foresight from women living with secondary breast cancer, who want to contribute to a future where people won’t have to die from the disease.

Support throughout

Alongside our lab-based research, we also want to find the best ways to support people with breast cancer, and their family and friends, from diagnosis, through treatment and for life.

It’s estimated that nearly 700,000 women in the UK today have had a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. That’s why we continue to fund research to find the best ways to support women and men at all stages of their breast cancer journey.

Planning ahead

To make our ambitious research plans for the future possible, we rely on the generosity and enthusiasm of the public who take part in their thousands and wear it pink. The serious message behind the fun is so simple, the money raised on this day of pink perfection goes towards all of our work, and ultimately towards helping us achieve our goal that if we all act now, by 2050, no one will die from breast cancer.

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