Worldwide Breast Cancer BlogFight Breast Cancer Starting with You

Are you aware or just pink?

While I am known as a positive person, I do need to kick up a fuss here about a bee in my bonnet that I’ve had for a long time:

The overuse of the term “breast cancer awareness”.

I think we can all agree that it’s good to get the word out about breast cancer. But in my research, I’ve found that the messages are just not reaching us. For example, I surveyed over 200 people (who had joined breast cancer groups on Facebook) asking them what a cancerous lump felt like. Half didn’t know the answer!

And these were good people who were involved in the cause. Their profile pictures had pink ribbons, their blogs had pink backgrounds, I’m sure they had also been generous in donating to the cause and maybe even ran a marathon in support of it.

But what good does this pink do, when we don’t know the basics enough to save our own lives?

This is why I started Worldwide Breast Cancer. It’s not about selling pink stuff, or writing silly messages on your Wall. Its about fighting breast cancer, by starting with your brain. Knowing what the signs of breast cancer look like, how to know when you’ve found a bad lump and simply explaining what to do if that happens, so you have the power to catch it early, when it’s 98% curable.

Since 2003, I’ve been creating educational materials about breast cancer to help save lives. I’ve done this completely with my own funds. I even went so far as to leave my job, move to England and get a PhD in the topic so that I could prevent more people like my grandmothers and dear friend from being touched by this disease.

On Tuesday, 6 September, 2011, I receive that PhD. A long, wonderful journey that has really helped me to change the face of breast cancer awareness. I’ve tested my materials and found that they really do work. Now I need your help to take this to your street, in your part of the world, or in your language. I’m not asking you to buy pink dog biscuits, or a special kind of lip stick. All I ask is that if you like what I’m doing, be part of this by sponsoring a day on this website, or donate the price of your last trip to the movies below, so that I can stop fighting breast cancer alone, starting with you.

Are you with me?

P.S. If you are a company selling pink stuff for the cause, please contact me about including educational materials with your goods!
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Breast Cancer Leaflet (XS)

Priced for an extra small distribution of under 250 people.

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Risk Calculator

The U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) has developed a risk assessment calculator for women age 35 and over. If you are curious about your risk, try it out. Just click on the calculator to get started!

Breast Cancer Risk Calculator 

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Research Top 6 Discoveries

Whether you are a doctor in a clinic, a public health director or an activist looking for creative ways to educate those around you about breast cancer, the tools on this site are designed for you.

Here at Worldwide Breast Cancer, as The Mayor I’ve been busy designing and researching the best way to educate a global audience about breast cancer since 2002. In fact, these materials earned me a PhD, and now I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you so we can educate the world together.

A new way to educate without censorship or embarrassment

Breast cancer is associated with some pretty strong taboos that can make a public campaign difficult. First, “breast” is often associated with sex, and displaying images of breasts can be a problem. Second, “cancer” is often associated with death, making it a topic that for many is difficult to talk about, leaving many people avoiding it altogether. These materials remove the “sex” and “death” from the message of breast cancer through using a visual metaphor of a lemon to represent the breast. Because it is similar in appearance but separate from the body, it can be a powerful tool for illustrating signs of breast cancer in a very specific way, while avoiding censorship. This is a completely new way of educating the public about breast cancer, that makes it possible to reach more people than ever before. It also reaches those who may have difficulties with reading or are embarrassed about the topic.

So how does one show something that can’t be displayed in public? Simple! Find a friendly, familiar substitute—the lemon.

More than just a friendly looking fruit, lemons resemble the shape of a breast on the outside and resemble the anatomy of a breast on the inside. And amazingly, a cancerous lump often feels hard and immovable—just like a lemon seed. Have a look at just how similar it is in the image below:

“Why visuals are critical in educational materials

Words are usually the way that the public is educated about health messages. However, this is a problem for a few reasons:

  • It’s estimated that 1 in 5 patients have literacy issues (1), making reading difficult.
  • Most wordy educational materials are never read (Beaumont PhD, p. 249).
  • The information is in one language which is a problem for educating multicultural audiences.

Images can communicate to people of any language, are more engaging and can communicate information in a specific way that words cannot (imagine navigating a new town without a map, or building a house without blueprints). However, getting the right image can be difficult. And when most health materials are developed without designers, with limited budgets and lack of time, words are the easier way of communicating. In fact, in a review of over 100 breast cancer detection materials and websites, less than 10% of them used educational images at all. Despite this, 89% of patients prefer visual materials to non-graphic material.

The only materials that tell the whole story

In a comprehensive review of breast cancer detection materials in print and online, no single resource provided all of the key information necessary for a patient to be fully aware of the detection process. Information like, “What does a lump feel like?” “What does breast cancer look like?” “What steps do I take to detect breast cancer?” were often not answered. By testing the message and materials with patients, it was possible to create a simple two-page leaflet that delivered these key messages in a single resource in a powerful and memorable way. The only one of its kind.

Over 4,000 people have downloaded and shared this leaflet.

Tested with hundreds of patients and found to work

Most health materials are rarely tested with their audiences to determine if they work before the money is spent on printing. To make sure that the these Worldwide Breast Cancer materials were done right, several studies were done to get the visuals and the messages just right. Here are some results from those studies.

Designing began by doing a general survey of the public, to find where the gaps in education were and what the materials needed to inform the public about. Over 200 people took part in this survey.

It was found that half of patients didn’t know what a cancerous lump felt like. So a poster illustrating what the anatomy of a breast felt like was designed. This poster was tested alongside a traditional line drawing of anatomy which was common in education materials. The results were dramatic:

Interestingly, most people didn’t read the text in the second poster. Their knowledge was based mostly on looking at the images.

“Does seeing breast anatomy in this visual way improve your understanding 
of what to feel for when you are doing a breast self-exam?”

97% said yes.
65% said it also made them feel more confident in their ability to recognize breast cancer.

It was also discovered that many people didn’t know that breast cancer could be presented in other ways besides a lump. A poster was designed to illustrate these signs. One study with 67 people looked at how accurately they could interpret the symptoms without any text. This would determine if this poster could communicate to more people across the world despite language differences.

 

Testing revealed that people could identify most of the signs by appearance alone. This led to improvements in the appearance of the images to increase their ability to communicate accurately. It also identified which symptoms needed a simple text label to help them interpret what they saw more accurately.

After improvements to the image were made, another patient group was used to test the text labels with the image, bringing the interpretation of the signs of breast cancer to near perfect levels, resulting in the finished poster:

“Would you be able to recognize these signs on yourself better now that you’ve seen this image?” 
89% said yes.

Help patients see the “big picture view” of their patient pathway

To understand the process of detection, the designer went through the full detection process herself. She acted as a patient in several clinics, got a mammogram, and interviewed several healthcare professionals in the US and UK in their environments to compare different systems. This was done to understand how to communicate the process to patients in a way that was simple yet specific enough to help patients participate in the process and catch errors when certain steps or options weren’t offered.

An example of this is demonstrated in the design of a patient pathway chart below, with the top one using text and lines, and the bottom one using images of people in a simple step-by-step view:

By illustrating the steps of breast cancer detection as a series of interactions with people and results, it provides the patient with a “big picture” view of the whole process. This helps them understand where they currently are in the process and the options that are available to them. When patients clearly understand the detection journey, they are more likely to participate in it and anxiety over the unknown in reduced—all through the help of good design![/expand]

The Mayor, a figure that 98% of women can relate to

The woman figure, known as “The Mayor”, used to illustrate breast cancer events and act as a source of the friendly, approachable voice in the materials, is a unique concept and contribution in breast cancer detection materials to date. The Mayor has been found to be a relatable female image for most patients spanning across a range of nationalities. When people were asked, “Could this woman be seen as someone from you country?” 98% of respondents, representing countries such as Columbia, USA, Britain, South Africa and the Middle East, said yes.

When tested with women in Qatar, one participate wrote: “I love the idea that the woman has no features and black hair, which could make her Indian, Pakistani, Asian or Arab.”

So why is this important? Often in materials, a woman is needed to illustrate a breast cancer event, such as getting a mammogram. If the materials are to be used in a variety of countries, it’s important for the reader to feel that the woman standing at the mammography machine is representing her, instead of representing a foreigner. If a patient makes a connection with the woman in the materials, they are more likely to visualize themselves participating in screening and seeing the information as being relevant to them, in their time. Here is an example of why using an illustrated figure is a benefit over using photographs:

You can also find The Mayor on Facebook. Add her as a friend!

Turn patient exams into teaching moments

These materials are designed to promote collaboration between patient and physician. Through using these materials developed by Worldwide Breast Cancer in the health environment, patient–physician encounters can become teaching moments as well as diagnostic events. In particular, the risk assessment form allows a physician and patient to understand their risk while at the same time developing a screening plan. A copy can then be made for the patient chart that records the patient’s risk level and screening plan. The other copy is for the patient to take home as a reminder of that conversation.

Health practitioners can use these materials in each point of the patient journey to increase the effectiveness of screening and diagnostic events. Worldwide Breast Cancer makes it easy to improve the patient experience through well-designed information. Download the Worldwide Breast Cancer Guide for Health Practitioners and learn how you can use these powerful materials in your own clinic, health campaign or hospital.
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Materials for your health center

Want to improve your patient’s experience by educating them in a creative way? Worldwide Breast Cancer posters are ideal for women’s clinics, mammography centers and hospitals.

Here are some examples of ways you can use them:

To find these tools, visit the Shop.

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1 Minute Facebook Campaign

Simply post a link to your favorite page on this site on Facebook, encouraging your friends to visit and then challenge them to post their favorite page on their own wall.

Here is a suggestion to get you started:

Found this great website about breast cancer awareness today. I was surprised how much I didn’t know! My challenge to you is to check out this link, then post this link to your own wall. It may just save your life and the life of your friends too!

http://worldwidebreastcancer.com/learn

Or challenge them to take a quiz:

Took this breast cancer awareness quiz today, learned a lot! Can you beat my score of X?

http://www.worldwidebreastcancer.com/breast-cancer-quiz/  (Everyone loves a quiz!)

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Tested with hundreds of patients and found to work

Most health materials are rarely tested with their audiences to determine if they work before the money is spent on printing. To make sure that the these Worldwide Breast Cancer materials were done right, several studies were done to get the visuals and the messages just right. Here are some results from those studies.

Designing began by doing a general survey of the public, to find where the gaps in education were and what the materials needed to inform the public about. Over 200 people took part in this survey.

It was found that half of patients didn’t know what a cancerous lump felt like. So a poster illustrating what the anatomy of a breast felt like was designed. This poster was tested alongside a traditional line drawing of anatomy which was common in education materials. The results were dramatic:

Interestingly, most people didn’t read the text in the second poster. Their knowledge was based mostly on looking at the images.

“Does seeing breast anatomy in this visual way improve your understanding 
of what to feel for when you are doing a breast self-exam?”

97% said yes.
65% said it also made them feel more confident in their ability to recognize breast cancer.

It was also discovered that many people didn’t know that breast cancer could be presented in other ways besides a lump. A poster was designed to illustrate these signs. One study with 67 people looked at how accurately they could interpret the symptoms without any text. This would determine if this poster could communicate to more people across the world despite language differences.

 

Testing revealed that people could identify most of the signs by appearance alone. This led to improvements in the appearance of the images to increase their ability to communicate accurately. It also identified which symptoms needed a simple text label to help them interpret what they saw more accurately.

After improvements to the image were made, another patient group was used to test the text labels with the image, bringing the interpretation of the signs of breast cancer to near perfect levels, resulting in the finished poster:

“Would you be able to recognize these signs on yourself better now that you’ve seen this image?” 
89% said yes.

 

Read more

The only materials that tell the whole story

In a comprehensive review of breast cancer detection materials in print and online, no single resource provided all of the key information necessary for a patient to be fully aware of the detection process. Information like, “What does a lump feel like?” “What does breast cancer look like?” “What steps do I take to detect breast cancer?” were often not answered. By testing the message and materials with patients, it was possible to create a simple two-page leaflet that delivered these key messages in a single resource in a powerful and memorable way. The only one of its kind.

Over 4,000 people have downloaded and shared this leaflet.

Read more

Why visuals are critical in educational materials

Words are usually the way that the public is educated about health messages. However, this is a problem for a few reasons:

  • It’s estimated that 1 in 5 patients have literacy issues (1), making reading difficult.
  • Most wordy educational materials are never read (Beaumont PhD, p. 249).
  • The information is in one language which is a problem for educating multicultural audiences.

Images can communicate to people of any language, are more engaging and can communicate information in a specific way that words cannot (imagine navigating a new town without a map, or building a house without blueprints). However, getting the right image can be difficult. And when most health materials are developed without designers, with limited budgets and lack of time, words are the easier way of communicating. In fact, in a review of over 100 breast cancer detection materials and websites, less than 10% of them used educational images at all. Despite this, 89% of patients prefer visual materials to non-graphic material.

To understand the process of detection, the designer went through the full detection process herself. She acted as a patient in several clinics, got a mammogram, and interviewed several healthcare professionals in the US and UK in their environments to compare different systems. This was done to understand how to communicate the process to patients in a way that was simple yet specific enough to help patients participate in the process and catch errors when certain steps or options weren’t offered.

An example of this is demonstrated in the design of a patient pathway chart below, with the top one using text and lines, and the bottom one using images of people in a simple step-by-step view:

By illustrating the steps of breast cancer detection as a series of interactions with people and results, it provides the patient with a “big picture” view of the whole process. This helps them understand where they currently are in the process and the options that are available to them. When patients clearly understand the detection journey, they are more likely to participate in it and anxiety over the unknown in reduced—all through the help of good design!

Read more

A new way to educate without censorship or embarrassment

Breast cancer is associated with some pretty strong taboos that can make a public campaign difficult. First, “breast” is often associated with sex, and displaying images of breasts can be a problem. Second, “cancer” is often associated with death, making it a topic that for many is difficult to talk about, leaving many people avoiding it altogether. These materials remove the “sex” and “death” from the message of breast cancer through using a visual metaphor of a lemon to represent the breast. Because it is similar in appearance but separate from the body, it can be a powerful tool for illustrating signs of breast cancer in a very specific way, while avoiding censorship. This is a completely new way of educating the public about breast cancer, that makes it possible to reach more people than ever before. It also reaches those who may have difficulties with reading or are embarrassed about the topic.

So how does one show something that can’t be displayed in public? Simple! Find a friendly, familiar substitute—the lemon.

More than just a friendly looking fruit, lemons resemble the shape of a breast on the outside and resemble the anatomy of a breast on the inside. And amazingly, a cancerous lump often feels hard and immovable—just like a lemon seed. Have a look at just how similar it is in the image below:

To test if this metaphor worked to overcome censor, a small study was done to determine how children viewed this image of two lemons on a sofa:

 

It was found that most children did not see ‘breasts’ when looking at the image, which meant that the image was capable of sending the message of ‘breasts’ to older audiences, while remaining a child friendly image to young audiences. Most of the children’s responses were imaginative, with few of them even acknowledging a lemon was in the photo, for instance:

  • ‘a funny couch’ (3 year-old girl)
  • ‘a bench on a carpet’ (4 year-old girl)
  • ‘couch cake!’ (four year-old boy)
  • ‘a couch on golden stands and a pink carpet’ (four year-old boy)
  • ‘a couch with eyes’ (four year-old boy)
  • ‘a funny couch face’ (four year-old boy)
  • ‘frog’s face’ (five year-old girl)
  • ‘freaky yellow lemon eyes sitting on a couch!’ (5 year-old boy)
  • ‘wow it’s a smiley face’ (7 year-old boy)
  • ‘a couch’ (7 year-old girl)
  • ‘lemons on a couch’ (9 year-old girl)
  • ‘a cartoon face’ (10 year-old boy)
  • ‘frog’s face’ (10 year-old girl)
  • ‘it looks like two lemons that look like boobs on a sofa’ (10 year-old girl)
  • ‘sofa with two lemon circular pillows’ (13 year-old girl)

 

A follow-up interview with a parent commented that her four year-old son may not have seen the lemons because he wouldn’t normally see lemons positioned facing forward as they were shown in the image (Stephens, 2010). This may explain why the younger children didn’t name the lemons and instead identified the more familiar objects such as a sofa or saw eyes. It appeared that in this small study, the threshold for recognising breasts in the image was age ten. [1]



[1] It is possible that more children may have recognised the breast image, but were embarrassed to share this knowledge with their parents. A follow-up survey could be done in the future to test these findings if further accuracy was needed.

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