During October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month), you’ll be seeing a lot more of BooBee across the city – she’s the symbol of a brand-new Manchester-led campaign with a critical message: awareness and prevention saves lives.

We caught up with the woman behind the wings, Margo Cornish, to find out more….

A brand-new movement born in Manchester 

BooBee is the marvellous mascot of a new partnership between Prevent Breast Cancer and Margo Cornish, known for her tireless campaigning and fundraising for Maggie’s Manchester, as well as being an ambassador for Teenage Cancer Trust North West. 

Margo was about to take a year off when she became aware of frightening trend in the prevalence of breast cancer in Manchester: 

“Last year, whilst producing a large event in the city, it became clear to me that there were an unusually high proportion of women fighting breast cancer taking part,” recalls Glaswegian-turned-adopted-Mancunian Margo. “Women who were previously normal, healthy and fit; women who looked after themselves and didn’t smoke and women who had no previous history of breast cancer in their family. This really worried me.”

It was then that she joined forces with Manchester-based Prevent Breast Cancer – the only UK charity committed solely to predicting and preventing the disease – and launched the BooBee movement.

North West screening attendance below average 

Every year, 11,500 women lose their life to breast cancer and it is the biggest cause of death for women aged 35-49 in the UK. Over 80% of all women diagnosed are over 50 years old and 25% of all cases are in women over the age of 75. Despite the lack of awareness (one in 10 breast cancers are diagnosed late), shockingly, just 4% of all cancer funding is spent on prevention. 

“The number of women in the North West who took up their invitation for breast screening falls below the average for England. We want to change these figures.”

Predict. Prevent. Protect. 

Breast cancer can affect women of all ages and, if caught early, it can be cured.

“We want to reach out to every woman in Greater Manchester,” says Margo, “women of all races and religions who make up our cosmopolitan city and tell them that it is okay to talk about breast cancer and, even better, talk about the steps they can take to decrease their risk.

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. All women should be checking themselves once a month – just after your monthly cycle if you’re premenopausal – and, if you’re over 50, you should attend mammogram appointments. Women under 35 can also lower their risk through lifestyle choices – eat healthily, drink sensibly, stop smoking, avoid junk food and weight gain, exercise regularly. And, of course, we ask them to encourage their mother’s generation and other older family members to attend their screenings. Get to know your body. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t put off getting help!”

Why Manchester?

The Prevent Breast Cancer team are based at Wythenshawe Hospital and are leading the way in global scientific research into the disease. 

Currently, their studies include a world first – women having a risk assessment at the same time as a breast screening, which could potentially revolutionise NHS breast screening in the UK.

On a lighter note, ‘Mamucium’, the ancient name for the city, is derived from the Roman word meaning ‘breast-shaped hill’. Surely, it was meant to ‘bee’…

Creating a buzz around breast cancer

When Margo decided to take decisive action in raising awareness of breast cancer, she collaborated with designer Melanie Hudson from Stir Creative to create the glorious ‘BooBee’:

“I wanted something everyone associated with Manchester,” says Margo, “and bees were a natural choice, as they work together to support and protect each other. Our BooBee wants to help support and protect the women of Greater Manchester and also help us be the city that conquers breast cancer.

“I was over the moon with Mel’s creation, it ticked every box as a mascot. She’s a queen bee. She’s not the shy, retiring type but instead, she stands for strength and tenacity, the survival of the colony and longevity. Bees are precious and your health is precious.”

To ensure the mascot had longevity, Margo has since gifted it to Prevent.

“A campaign has a beginning and an end,” says Margo, “this is a movement.”

Join the Brest-Fest

This October, Manchester will play host to the first-ever Brest-Fest – produced by Margo and swarming the city with some wonderful events, including the wonderful Afternoon Bee (Saturday October 5th). 

Taking place at Manchester Central, this wonderfully educational and inspiring day will start with ‘Everything you wanted to know about Breast Cancer and were afraid to ask’, during which Prevent’s leading scientists and clinicians will discuss current studies and take questions from attendees. 

Later, there will be fabulous food (all approved by Prevent dietician Michelle Harvie), entertainment, fundraising and powerful stories told by 100 North West women, each of whom have volunteered to back the campaign and reiterate that breast cancer ‘can happen to any woman’.

“It’s currently under wraps,” smiles Margo, “but the jaw-dropping finale is NOT to be missed.”

Throughout the month, the BooBee bus (see image) will be stopping at female-centric locations and organisations across the city, sharing the knowledge, spreading the word. 

A breast cancer-free future

By supporting the BooBee campaign, a future that is breast cancer-free can be a reality. And if you can’t attend an event or catch the bus, pick up some merchandise!

For example, buy a BooBee soap-on-a-rope for a friend to remind her to check herself in the shower. The money you spend will fund Prevent’s research programme. 

“Together, we can educate women about breast cancer risks whilst protecting our daughters, grand-daughters and every generation to come after from breast cancer,” says Margo.

“We want not only to create a positive shift in the city’s breast cancer statistics, we want people to look at Manchester and say ‘this is a blueprint for what we should be doing in our own cities’. That’s the ultimate goal for us – not just influencing the women of Manchester, but the entire country.”

Find out more, book for an event or buy merchandise, visit boobee.co.uk

Words by: Lisa Symonds

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