Time to Cop A Feel

Fearne Cotton provides celebrity endorsement for CoppaFeel! and cancer victim Kristin Hallenga is the CEO and founder of the organisation.

Boobs. A social taboo? A personal insecurity? Some Friday night fun? What about the killer of 12,000 people every year in the UK alone? Breast cancer is one of the most common and fatal diseases in the world, with roughly one person being diagnosed every ten minutes, but little is being done to educate men and women on the preventative measures that can be taken to strengthen our fight against cancer. It is now time to stand up, man up, and start feeling our boobies.

Startlingly, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women under the age of 35, yet most women in this age group are too young for routine breast screening under the NHS. With regular screening proven to prevent up to 75 per cent of breast cancers, why is more not being done to raise awareness for the people who are not given this privilege?

One organisation trying to combat this ignorance is CoppaFeel! CoppaFeel! is a charity committed to educating people about breast cancer, aiming to increase the likelihood of early diagnosis through regular self-checking. The organisation targets its campaign at both women and men between the ages of 18 and 30 as a way of breaking down the assumption that it is only possible to contract breast cancer if you are over a certain age. CoppaFeel! does all this with a cheeky grin, by organising boobs on the bus days, ‘boob-ball’ events and asking celebrities to pose dressed as giant breasts.

Lucy Carty, the University of York Boob Team Leader, says that “not enough is being done to promote breast cancer awareness for students and young adults”, and she, along with 36 other Uni Boob Teams, are hoping to spread the word about self-checking in campuses nationwide. With 20 people on her team, Carty hopes to “engage the active and enthusiastic” student body in participating in one of the biggest cancer awareness campaigns yet, following in the footsteps of Fearne Cotton, who is both a patron and a huge supporter of the cause. Cotton recently ran a half marathon in aid of the charity, and, along with fellow sponsor Dermot O’Leary, has begun a media blitz in hope of raising further awareness of the cause. On being asked when she cops a feel, Fearne responded, “In the mornings, in the shower – it’s easy to do it when you’re having a wash. It becomes part of a routine, like brushing your teeth”.

Although CoppaFeel! is “all good fun and cheeky”, as Carty put it, the issue is as grave and serious as ever. CoppaFeel!’s founder and CEO Kristin Hallenga’s story is both tragic and inspiring. Having been misdiagnosed twice due to her young age, she is now suffering from Stage 4 cancer which has spread from her breasts to her liver and spine. Struck with endless medical exams and operations, having been just 23 at the time of diagnosis, Hallenga has committed her life to the hope that “one day we will live in a world where no one dies of breast cancer due to late detection.”

CoppaFeel! is not alone in its fight against breast cancer. This year has seen some of the grandest and most successful campaigns move from strength to strength, as awareness of the cancer increases in correlation with the use of social media and broadcast advertising. Just last week, Channel 4 organised its first Stand Up To Cancer telethon event, with stars such as Cheryl Cole, JLS and Kylie Minogue turning up to show their support. Moreover, this month marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with celebrities all over the country such as Davina McCall and Alan Carr taking part in events aimed to raise as much money and awareness for the cause as possible, such as sponsored skydives and marathons. Celebrity endorsement and media campaigns are clearly our greatest weapons in the war on breast cancer.

However, as much as we are bombarded with information from the media and as much as this disease continues to affect men and women everywhere, people are still able to live in denial and alienate themselves from the disease. Ordinary people, including me, are struggling to comprehend the chances and probability of contracting breast cancer as there are so many myths and uncertainties regarding its origin and development.

Speaking to one second year student at the university, it is easy to see how so many people have difficulty facing up to the reality of cancer: “For so long I thought the possibility of breast cancer was tiny. There was not a history of it in my family, and I led a perfectly healthy lifestyle. It was only when my aunt, just 27 years old, fell ill with breast cancer that I realised the absurd nature of the disease. It can happen to any woman at any time, and yet it never occurred to me to self check my breasts or talk about breast cancer with my GP.”

However, it is important to remember that there has been progress and that everyday new scientific research becomes available to help the fight against breast cancer. The Johns Hopkins University in America has instigated a multi-million dollar research programme to investigate how it is possible to interrupt signals between cancer cells. A new concept called the ‘Smart Bra’ is currently in development and awaiting FDA approval. Three clinical trials involving 650 women showed that the bra could detect early tumour development up to 6 years before mammogram imaging would have been able to.

Many untrue myths still remain about the causes of cancer, and many people will try to tell you that underwired bras and anti-perspirants lead to tumours. However, there is very little information available to us about what actually causes the disease, and all doctors stress the importance of early detection and self-checking in fighting breast cancer.

Smart Bras may be the way forward for women, but what about the men who also suffer from the disease? What is being done to warn them about the early signs and symptoms of breast cancer? Most people assume that men are immune from this particular type of cancer even though 77 men died from the disease in the UK last year. Peter Flemming, a 79 year old civil servant from Manchester, was diagnosed with breast cancer after experiencing chest pains. Even though men do not have breasts in the same sense as women, this cancer is indiscriminatory and unpredictable. It can kill absolutely anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, size or lifestyle.

As a way of promoting the importance of self-checking breasts in the hope to increase early detection of cancer, CoppaFeel! have organised many events in the hope of getting people involved and aware of the cause. On the 26th November, a flash mob will erupt near Central Hall on the University of York’s campus. Following the flash mob will be an evening of ‘booby-themed’ cocktails and a comedy show to mark the ‘CoppaFeel! in the Shower’ campaign. Upcoming events also include ‘Cake O’Clock’ and 5K runs being orchestrated by Boob team leaders and students alike, and CoppaFeel! urges more university students to get involved with this fantastic organisation.

Breast cancer is silent and deadly and we do not know when or if it will ever happen to us. Nothing is as effective in fighting breast cancer as self-checking, which most people still fail to do. However, organisations like CoppaFeel! are giving us the knowledge of how to check and cope with what can be the earliest, most detectable signs of the disease. It is as important to cop a feel as it is to continue fighting this cancer.