People affected by breast cancer – not only the patient but also family, friends and colleagues – often want to get involved in helping to combat the problem. For example, they may become active in raising breast cancer issues of a medical or social nature, in campaigning for equal access to the best treatment and care, or for more funding for research.
Powerful coalitions have sprung up involving advocates with medical experts, politicians and others. Much progress over the last 20 years in providing factual information and vastly improved diagnosis, treatment and care, has been stimulated by breast cancer advocacy. In the UK, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer, working closely with advocates, has brought about improvements in services which have resulted recently in a significant fall in mortality from breast cancer.
All party parliamentary groups now exist in the European Parliament.
In the United States, where the concept of breast cancer advocacy originated, the National Breast Cancer Coalition involves thousands of advocates in every state, whose campaigns have not only focused huge US budgetary resources on breast cancer management and research, but also inspired the advocacy movement worldwide.
Would you like to get involved? You can:
• Learn about specific issues in need of support and how effectively to raise these with MPs and MEPs.
• Act as a local information resource.
• Write to the editor of your local paper and be prepared to offer your personal views on any current breast cancer-related stories published.
• Be available to talk to the media, pharmaceutical companies and other bodies about your breast cancer experience.
• Be prepared to give evidence at committee or parliamentary hearings on breast cancer. Local and national organizations frequently request the support of advocates to testify on a particular issue, such as employment, insurance, quality of care, genetic testing etc. A personal experience can do so much to illustrate how a specific issue can affect people coping with cancer.
• Join coalitions to strengthen the impact of your advocacy work.
• Support others with breast cancer. If there is no breast cancer support group where you live, contact your local hospital to see if you can start a group with their support. Feel free to contact us for useful hints and advice in this respect.
Contact us if you would like to be put on our list of advocates or would like to learn how to campaign. Our Chief Executive Victoria Todd is willing to provide guidance on how best to organise a campaign and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.