A breast cancer scare has inspired one student to lead a De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU) volunteering group – who have now topped the tables nationally.
Kate Whitfield, a second-year Fine Art student at De Montfort University (DMU), found a fibroadenoma – a small lump in the breast tissue – and said that the discovery was at the front of her mind when becoming Co-Team Leader of DSU’s UniBoob Team alongside fellow student Ellie Gorski.
The volunteering group, which works on the DMU campus as part of the national breast cancer-awareness charity CoppaFeel!, is just one of more than 65 such groups across the UK – but it was DSU’s volunteers who topped the table for most sign-ups to the charity’s text service in December 2016.
And despite later finding out that the lump was completely harmless, Kate explained that her experience has made her think about women (and men) in the same position.
“If my story can inspire even one person to sign up to the text service or get involved in volunteering then I've done my job,” she said. “As long as the main focus is on CoppaFeel! and the great work our UniBoob team has done in helping raise awareness then I'm happy.
“Our team worked really hard to get to the top of the leader board. Here’s to getting to the top again in February’s leader board!”
Ellie said: “We found out from [our contact] at the CoppaFeel! headquarters in London.
“I let her know that we had raised money from some events – and she let me know we had the most SMS sign-ups in the UK for December!
“We were ninth nationally for November across more than 65 groups across the UK, but to find out we were top for December was just incredible.”
Kate (left) and Ellie (right) were both part of the UniBoob team last year – but have now stepped up to be co-team leaders.
The text service is a free monthly subscription and is one of the charity’s main awareness drivers by reminding those signed up to check their breasts.
“Over Christmas it said ‘don't forget to check your Christmas puddings’” Kate added.
But now the group, made up of a handful of volunteers, are looking to build on the work they have already done. Ellie said: “You hear stories of people like Kate who have gone and checked, and it proves how important awareness can be.
“But not enough people are checking their boobs. There are other breast cancer charities out there, but what we like about CoppaFeel! is the manner in which they raise awareness; and it is very much aimed at students.”
The group, who have already held a pop-up salon in DMU’s Kimberlin Library and hosted a takeover of an InJUNCTION Wednesday night at XY, ‘Hakuna Ya Tatas’ cocktail and all, are now checking their ‘Boob Bible’ for upcoming events.
“Right at the beginning we were given a Boob Bible by CoppaFeel!,” Kate said. “There are ideas for events in there, and we’re given a bit of free rein.”
Kate, who is Captain and Secretary of Women’s Rugby, continued: “We’ve found that sports teams in particular are an extremely good way in to communicate to a lot of people. Breast cancer is something that can be prevented and can really be helped by people finding out sooner.”
Statistics from Cancer Research UK show that 11,433 people died as a direct result of breast cancer in 2014.
Incidence rates are projected to rise by 2% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, to 210 cases per 100,000 females by 2035. One in 8 women and One in 870 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.
You can read more about DMU’s UniBoob Team – and find out how you can get involved – on their page here. You can also like their page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
You can support the group by signing up for CoppaFeel's text service, which reminds you to check your boobs on a monthly basis, by texting UBT DMU to 70500. (Terms and Conditions)
The group held a takeover of DSU's InJUNCTION night out at the start of February and even designed their own cocktail to raise awareness.