For Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation, it was her own journey through breast cancer that made her want to reach others and raise awareness. She knew that the earlier her disease was caught, the better the outcomes might be. 

Indeed, Marie Keating, after whom the foundation is named, might have still been with us at the  age of 71, if only she had seen a doctor sooner.

 

All women should get to know their breasts

 

Yeates says, “All women should get to know their breasts. I knew I had had cysts before, so I wasn’t too alarmed to find a lump – I just assumed it was another cyst. But during a mammogram, the scan picked up something more sinister, which there was no way I would have caught. So screenings really do help.”

Right now, in Ireland, survivorship rates for breast cancer are around 83%, which is almost double the 43% Marie Keating faced 20 years ago. The charity continues to act in her name, and their nursing teams reach around 22,000 women every year, teaching them the important early signs and symptoms. From breast changes, such as puckering, dimpling or lumps, to other lifestyle-led risk factors, such as smoking or weight gain.

 

You may be at greater risk if breast/ovarian cancer runs in your family

 

But when it comes to hereditary conditions, there is certainly an increase of awareness, mainly through celebrities – such as Angelina Jolie, who has talked about her battle with the BRACA 1 gene. Yeates adds, “We would ask anyone with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer to look a little closer into the condition. Perhaps a lot of the ladies in your family just died young without any diagnosis? We can certainly help with the warning signs.”

The foundation also helps women who have been through breast cancer or are currently being treated, from survivors learning to live again without the upheaval of hospital, to supporting friends and family who are helping their loved ones get through it. They also provide workshops for those undergoing palliative care, which can offer practical support as well as emotional.

 

Cancer can be preventable

 

Most of all, Yeates wants the foundation to get the message across that a lot of cancer is preventable. She says, “We know that a healthy lifestyle can reduce anyone’s chances of developing cancer. From stopping smoking to getting your heart rate up five times a week and staying safe in the sun. There are lots of resources out there and I would encourage anyone to go and check them out.”