Welcome to our Breast Cancer Awareness Month update!
First of all – the good news. The financial year 2019/2020 has been our best year ever! With the help of our fantastic fundraising team and your generous support we have managed to raise over £1.3 million during a very eventful, busy and action-packed year. There are too many highlights to recount them all, but below I’ve outlined a select few.
Sporting challenges have always been of interest to many of our supporters and 2019 did not disappoint. In August we were the first ever Charity of the Year for Prudential RideLondon 46, which saw over 170 hardy supporters cycle furiously across London in aid of Prevent Breast Cancer. In November, a group of 33 even more thrill-seeking adventurers set off to Nepal to trek to the base camp of Mount Everest. Our patron Sally Dynevor commented that this had long been one of her life‘s ambitions, and I think that was true for many taking part. It will certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable experience for them all.
We also launched a new innovative campaign – BreastFest – which aimed to make Greater Manchester the most breast aware in the UK. Devised by one of our newest Patrons, Margo Cornish, it took almost a year to plan and was launched in October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign incorporated awareness, fundraising and press activity and even a pink double decker health awareness bus, which travelled across Greater Manchester. The main event was an Afternoon Tea fundraising and awareness day – The Afternoon Bee – which attracted an audience of over 800. Entertainment was provided by 100 women, who had all been affected by breast cancer, many of them also boldly shared their individual stories with the audience. Alongside these stories, several of our scientists and medical professionals talked about the different risk factors, signs and symptoms of breast cancer and their progress with preventing the disease for our future generations.
Put simply, 2019 was monumental for the charity.
But now – the bad news! Just as we were in the process of finalising our plans for 2020 along came the COVID-19 virus, sinking our hearts and all our plans. Prevent Breast Cancer relies principally for its fundraising on the events that we organise – such as our sporting events and challenges, our public events and gatherings, and the social events, in which so many of you take part. The lockdown measures have hit the entire charity sector badly, but particularly so for us as we do not have any significant income from wills and legacies or large corporations or public bodies like some charities. But despite the dramatic drop in our income, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Prevent Breast Cancer team remain optimistic for the future. Of course, we have had to put some special measures in place, and this has included putting several of our staff on furlough and trimming our overheads to a minimum. We have utilised our reserves policy and transferred invested funds into our bank account to help with cash flow. Most importantly, we asked our fundraising team to devise novel ways of raising funds during lockdown, and I am pleased to report that they have come up with some brilliant ideas, which some of you will have seen through our website and social media channels. Examples include our online retail campaign selling popular items such as masks and nightwear, and a virtual “Sunday Night In” evening of entertainment.
The fundraising team have been working from the office on a rota basis to ensure our coffee bar (with new social distancing measures) has remained open throughout this challenging period. Whilst the coffee bar raises funds for our research, it also provides an essential service to the patients and NHS staff working at The Nightingale Centre and Prevent Breast Cancer Research Unit and I am proud that we have been able to continue this service.
Another inevitable consequence of lockdown is that almost all our research projects temporarily ground to a halt, as staff were redeployed elsewhere or indeed sent home when labs were closed. I am pleased to report that all our existing research projects are now back up and running. Our major problem now is that the pipeline for future research is frozen. We have not been able to give any new grants for new research proposals this year. Exactly the same problem is faced by many medial research charities, who like us have had to freeze grants for new breast cancer research. We are not going to be able to reopen our pipeline of new research until our usual level of income is restored.
But we do have a vitally important project that we are actively raising funds for this year. We need to raise significant funds to build a National Breast Imaging Academy. This will be a national resource to train mammographers, doctors, nurses and other health professionals who will become the breast imaging team of the future.
There is currently an acute shortage of breast imaging experts and worryingly demand for these services is increasing. The situation has been exacerbated by lockdown and social distancing measures. On top of that, we believe investment and further research to support the screening program is needed; screening has the potential to save many more lives. Two of our goals are to introduce better targeted and enhanced screening for women identified as being at particular risk and eventually to lower the age of breast screening to try and prevent breast cancer in younger women. In order to see these ambitious and exciting innovations take place we need more space to undertake our research and to build a workforce for the future, trained and ready to go.
So, as we look to the months ahead, we continue to be so grateful for the encouragement and generous giving of all our supporters without whom none of this will be possible. In the year ahead our aim is to see our research pipeline flowing with ideas and outstanding projects once again, and to see the National Breast Imaging Academy start to become a physical reality.
With many thanks and kind regards,
Founder of Prevent Breast Cancer