THE BLOG

People Say That Breast Cancer Is 'Sorted' - That Kind of Lie Is Dangerous

01/05/2015 17:54 BST | Updated 01/05/2016 10:12 BST

Almost 20 years ago I had a mad idea to raise money for breast cancer by walking the New York City Marathon in a bra. This week Walk the Walk, the charity that grew from that first marathon, is celebrating... We have raised over £100million for breast cancer causes.

All this money has been raised thanks to over 350,000 women and men getting their trainers on and walking (or sometimes running, trekking or skiing) in the hope that they can help wipe out breast cancer.

We've come a long way since those early days - and I'm not just talking about the total of 8million miles covered by our walkers! Thanks to hard work by charities, researchers and, most importantly, women themselves breast cancer awareness is at a high. Treatments, diagnosis and prognosis are all improving. Survival rates are climbing.

In fact some people have been heard to say that breast cancer is a "sexy cause. " That too much money comes our way when a cure is more or less a done deal.

And yet breast cancer is still the biggest killer of women with 11,000 women a year losing their life to this disease. Our work is far from done.

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To mark our £100million milestone, we commissioned a survey to find out women's attitudes to breast cancer. We discovered 80 per cent of UK women are afraid of getting the disease, but only 30% check their breasts every month and one third don't really know what they're looking for. (You can find out here.)

In the younger age group (18-24) the figures were even more pronounced, with four in 10 women saying that if they found a lump they'd probably leave it a while before going to the doctor.

It's because no matter how hard we work on awareness, no matter how many friends or family we see go through it, there's a tiny primitive part of our brains that says: it won't happen to me.

I can still remember the sickening feeling when I first found a lump in my breast - I found it by accident, not because I was checking. My heart sank, and I kept thinking it might be a mistake and checking again. Luckily I did take myself to the doctor and was successfully treated.

But do I want to check my breasts now? No! Even after all this. Still, it's got to be done. I don't look forward to dental check-ups either but I have them because it makes sense. If you check regularly you catch problems early and stand a better chance of getting them sorted.

To tackle that inner voice, breast awareness should be taught to girls from puberty - at the same time as they learn about their menstrual cycle. They should be taught to get to know their breasts and check them regularly. Even though you're not expecting to find breast cancer at 13 it's setting them up for a health habit that will last a lifetime.

It's why I'm so passionate about our family fund-raising event, The SunWalk. The event includes children as well, meaning they have an awareness about what being healthy is from a much earlier age.

There's still so much to do with research as well. We have made huge leaps forward in early detection and identifying cancers. But there is still little covering secondary cancers - when new tumours grow and settle in a different part of the body. So now this is one of our aims to help with funding to bridge that gap.

If I was to compare the fight against breast cancer to a marathon, I'd say we have possibly made it to about mile 18. And that is a fabulous achievement. I take my hat off to everyone - charities and individuals - who have helped us all get there.

But more money is needed to make it to mile 26 and over the finish line. I'm not a doctor, I can't find a cure myself. But what I can do is walk, and talk other people into walking, too. So that's my part in the fight against breast cancer. Everyone has their part - what's yours?