Worldwide Breast Cancer BlogFight Breast Cancer Starting with You

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.

Read more

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!

Read more



  • list content goes here
  • list content goes here
  • list content goes here
  • list content goes here


[expand title=”Displayed Title Goes Here”]Hidden content goes here[/expand]


Read more

Breast Cancer Basics Video

A 3 minute video that introduces you to the basics of Breast Cancer Awareness. A great place to start!

Breast Cancer Basics Video


Read more

Breast Cancer Statistics Worldwide

In 2010, nearly 1.5 million people were told “you have breast cancer”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. It is also the principle cause of death from cancer among women globally. Despite the high incidence rates, in Western countries, 89% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive 5 years after their diagnosis, which is due to detection and treatment (Parkin, 2008).

The UK and USA have one of the highest incidence rates worldwide (together with the rest of North America and Australia/New Zealand), making these countries a priority for breast cancer awareness. View the map below to see how your country is impacted by breast cancer (pink being the highest per capita):

Dramatically, one-third of these cancer deaths could be decreased if detected and treated early. In a worldwide context, this means nearly 400,000 lives could be saved every year.*

(see infographic)
The World Health Organisation [WHO] has suggested that two components of early detection have been shown to improve cancer mortality:


  • Education—to help people recognize early signs of cancer and seek prompt medical attention for symptoms.
  • Screening programs—to identify early cancer or pre-cancer before signs are recognizable, including mammography for breast cancer.

In the UK and US, effective education and screening could save between 12 to 37 lives per day, respectively:


New Cases of
Breast Cancer
(per day)

Breast Cancer Deaths
(per day)

Lives that could have been saved through early detection
(per day)










Your Lifetime Risk, is it really 1 in 8?

The most common breast cancer statistic you have probably heard is that “1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.” What it should really read is “If everyone lived beyond the age of 70, 1 in 8 of those women would get or have had breast cancer.” This statistic is based on everyone in the population living beyond the age of 70. Since your breast cancer risk increases as you age, your lifetime risk changes depending on your age:

Age 20-29: 1 in 2,000
Age 30-39: 1 in 229
Age 40-49: 1 in 68
Age 50-59: 1 in 37
Age 60-69: 1 in 26
Ever: 1 in 8
Source: American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts & Figures, 2005-2006.

This means that this poster, should really look like this:

According to estimates of lifetime risk by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, about 13.2% of women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer…which is the same as saying 1 in 7.57 people. And since there is no such thing as .57 of a person, the common phrase is “1 in 8.”

However, after all of this, the chance that breast cancer will be responsible for your death in the U.S. is about 3%. Part of this is by being educated about breast cancer symptoms, knowing your risk and getting screened regularly.



*Danaei, 2005 and WHO, 2009

Read more


Read more

1. How can I detect Breast Cancer?

Confused at the steps for detecting breast cancer? Wondering what you should be doing and when? After one minute of looking at this poster, I bet you won’t be.

Read more

2. What does a Breast Cancer Lump Feel Like?

When you do a self-exam, what are you feeling for? What does a cancerous lump feel like?

A lemon is the perfect tool to show us the answer. Similar in appearance and anatomy, you’ll see that a cancerous lump feels hard and immovable like a lemon seed. But what does a normal lump feel like? Have a look.

Read more

3. What does Breast Cancer Look Like?

65% of participants felt more confident in their ability to recognize breast cancer symptoms after seeing this poster. Will you?

Read more

Breast Cancer Risk Form

So what puts you at a higher risk for breast cancer? You are about to find out, with the help of your printer.

First, let’s talk about what “risk” means. A risk is not a diagnosis of whether or not you will get breast cancer. Think of a higher risk as adding a few more tickets with your name into the raffle. Some people with low risks still get cancer, while those with a high risk never get it. But knowing you have a higher risk of breast cancer means you are informed, and can talk to your doctor to tailor make a screening plan that suits your body.

Have a look at this handy form below. Print it out and bring it with you to your next doctor’s appointment. When you fill it out together, it will give you an opportunity to tell your physician about your breast cancer risk, and also write down a plan of action. Having a piece of paper to guide the conversation makes it easy to cover the bases and leave knowing what you can do to detect breast cancer. This conversation just may save your life!

Download and print this for your next doctor's visit.

P.S. 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.

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool (age 35+)
Read more