A campaign has been launched, urging men and women across the veterinary profession to check themselves regularly for signs of breast cancer.
Vet Your Breasts was founded by Anna Beber, a young Bristol-based vet, after being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year.
“It was one of those typical Fridays in the lead up to Christmas with a 4pm emergency and a late discharge. I just managed to get to the pool for a swim before it closed.”
“That’s when I saw a breast cancer awareness poster in the changing room. I had not checked my breasts for a while, and this reminded me to do it.”
“I felt a lump in my left boob. Two months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and life turned upside-down.”
1 in 8 women, 1 in 400 men
1 in 8 women will be affected by breast cancer across their lifetime, and 1 in 400 men are diagnosed in the UK each year.
Any veterinary workplace with more than 8 women on their team, the chances are at least one of them will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
In Ireland, there are 3,100 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year.
Detecting the signs of breast cancer early improves the chances of a successful outcome. It is possible that a poster in a gym changing room may have saved Anna’s life.
But knowing how busy and stressful life in the veterinary profession can be, she wanted to do something to remind other veterinary professionals to find the time to check themselves.
“Everyone who works in or around the veterinary profession will know what an incredibly busy and fast-paced profession it is with very little time to pause. We are notoriously terrible at putting ourselves first.”
‘Vet your breasts whilst changing your scrubs – you could save your life’
This is where the idea for Vet Your Breasts was born. At the centre of the campaign is a poster featuring the 8 main early signs of breast cancer: lumps, pain, colour change or rash, swelling, nipple discharge, nipple inversion, dimpling and lumps in the armpit.
The poster features a message directly to the veterinary profession: ‘Vet your breasts whilst changing your scrubs – you could save your life’.
Over 1,000 posters and stickers are already displayed in practices across the UK and beyond, with the campaign reaching as far as Canada, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico.
Anna’s aim is to get one in every single veterinary workplace, as a reminder to her colleagues to spend a few minutes each month prioritising their health.
The key, Anna says, is checking regularly enough to know what is normal for you. “I just basically want as many women as possible to be given the opportunity to consider what is normal for them, and, if something has changed, to get checked out.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a real focus for the campaign.
Vets share stories
Vet Your Breasts have released a powerful video featuring Anna and five other veterinary professionals affected by breast cancer, sharing their experience, and urging their colleagues to check themselves regularly.
This video has been seen by over 4,000 people across the veterinary community so far, and continues to be shared widely.
To help start a conversation around breast cancer awareness, Vet Your Breasts have also launched a baking competition, in conjunction with Bake Off star – and vet – Rosie Brandreth-Poynter.
They are encouraging veterinary professionals to bake something pink to share in their workplace and stimulate a discussion around how the whole team can remind each other to check themselves regularly.
The campaign will continue to make noise throughout Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Anna and other veterinary professionals affected by breast cancer will be speaking out virtually, including the Vet Chat podcast with Ben Sweeney, and a Facebook live with Liz Barton from Veterinary Woman.
As Covid-19 continues to add pressure to the veterinary profession, there has never been a more important time to remember to take the time to take care of yourself and your colleagues.
For more information on the campaign, visit www.vetyourbreasts.com.