Sarah Harding’s mother Marie announced on Instagram yesterday that the Girls Aloud star had passed away – little over a year after she revealed she had breast cancer.
At just 39 years of age, it is heart-breaking news and Marie’s post describing her “beautiful” daughter as “a bright, shining star” was moving and sad.
Thankfully, breast cancer is less common in much younger women – but it does happen. According to Breast Cancer Now figures, 80% of diagnoses in the UK occur in women aged 50 and over, with 25% affecting over-75s. Yet every year, just over 10,000 women under 50 are diagnosed; around 7,600 will be in their 40s, and around 2,300 will be under 39.
This means awareness of the warning signs is vital for everyone at all ages, and it’s crucial that GPs refer young women with possible symptoms for appropriate tests, as the sooner breast cancer is detected, the easier it generally is to treat.
Here are four charities doing amazing work to support young women affected by breast cancer, and raise awareness of the disease amongst younger women…
Just 23 when she was diagnosed, now 35, Kris Hallenga has been living with incurable stage four breast cancer ever since. She founded CoppaFeel with her twin sister Maren, with a core mission of ensuring other young women with the disease get diagnosed as early as possible, when it’s generally easier to treat.
CoppaFeel has had an immense impact on breast cancer awareness amongst young women, and Hallenga has just published a book – Glittering A Turd: How Surviving The Unsurvivable Taught Me To Live (Unbound, £12.99).
2. Black Women Rising
After being diagnosed at 30, Leanne Pero became determined to tackle some of the issues she’d faced as a young black woman with breast cancer.
Access to support and connecting with people going through similar experiences can make a huge difference – yet for Pero, cancer felt doubly difficult and lonely as there just didn’t seem to be any resources out there for her.
Five years on, she now runs Black Women Rising, raising awareness of breast cancer within black communities and providing support networks for those going through the disease and coping with the ongoing impact of recovery. Last year they launched a magazine too.
3. Breast Cancer Now’s Younger Women Together
Breast Cancer Now is a charity dedicated to highlighting and furthering life-changing breast cancer research and care to help all people affected by the disease – and they launched Younger Women Together to help connect women aged under 45.
There are confidential online support groups, as well as speaker events, and access to info on a range of things, like fertility, treatments and exercise.
4. Keeping Abreast
Although not exclusively aimed at younger women, Keeping Abreast can be a great resource for people facing mastectomies and considering reconstructive surgery.
The charity runs a support network across the country, with the aim of providing a safe space to connect with others going through the same thing, and share experiences and information to help women make informed choices with support from people who understand the challenges and considerations involved.