Students work with local NHS to produce animation to improve breast cancer awareness

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Checking your breasts or attending a breast screening appointment can save your life. In the UK, one in seven women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.

To help encourage women across Southwark to check their breasts and attend their screening appointments, the NHS has worked with local students to develop four short, animated films inspired by testimonials from Black women who have been previously treated for breast cancer. The films highlight the importance of breast awareness and screening as key routes to the early detection and treatment of breast cancer which can save lives.

A 2021 south east London review of breast screening uptake showed that areas with higher proportions of non-white British ethnicities are more likely to have poorer uptake for breast screening. National studies have also previously shown that uptake amongst Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are lower, and in some groups of women, more cases of cancer are only detected at advanced stages of the disease leading to poorer survival rates.

To highlight the importance of breast screening as part of International Women’s, Day 8 March 2022, Partnership Southwark enlisted the help of London College of Communication, BA Animation, Animation Arts Pathway students. The students who offered to support the project as part of their academic assessment, have produced four short, animated films inspired by testimonials from Black women who have been previously treated for breast cancer.

Gill Henderson, Cultural and Communities Partnerships Manager at London College of Communication, UAL, said: “London College of Communication has long been a part of the Southwark community, contributing to the borough through our creative education programmes and strong links with schools and organisations in the area.”

Partnership Southwark and SCHWeP (Southwark Cultural Health and Wellbeing Partnership) are working together to find innovative ways of encouraging Black, Asian and minority ethnic women in Southwark to be more aware of the condition, demystify and destigmatise breast cancer, be confident to talk about it, and to attend screenings in a timely manner.

Dr Nicola Weaver, Macmillan GP Clinical Cancer Lead for Southwark explained: “It is important to remember that breast screening is for healthy people with no symptoms. Screening can help to find breast cancers early when they are too small to see or feel. We also want more women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to get used to checking their breasts regularly. The screening programme currently starts at age 50, but if women of any age find a change in their breasts, we would encourage them to contact their GP for advice.”

Dr Weaver added: “we hope these fantastic films will help to amplify and communicate this sensitive message in a universal language for an ethnically diverse borough like Southwark.”

The animations will be shared widely across all our healthcare settings in Southwark and across south east London to maximise the reach of this important resource and to amplify the CCG’s commitment to partnership working.

Gill Henderson stated: “Our students play a vital role in supporting local initiatives through our Cultural and Communities Partnerships programme. Their work with Partnership Southwark and SCHWeP further demonstrates the potential of such collaborations, in this case giving students the opportunity to hone their craft while supporting an NHS initiative that could benefit so many women in the area.”