EVERY year 520 women in Oxfordshire are diagnosed with breast cancer and 115 will die from the disease.

One in eight British women will develop the disease in their lifetime and between 350 and 400 men will also be diagnosed.

Survival rates have risen in recent decades but charities face a constant battle for more funding for research, support for sufferers and palliative care.

Every October their campaigns peak with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a global initiative to raise awareness of the condition and raise money for charities which deal with it.

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On Fridays throughout the month people are encouraged to wear something pink to work or school and October 13 is an awareness day for secondary stage breast cancer, a type which has spread to other parts of the body.

October 4 will see the annual Witney in Pink event with street collections, bric-a-brac stalls and entertainment across the town.

Throughout the month charities including Breast Cancer Care and Breakthrough will receive donations from a range of pink items sold in high street shops including John Lewis, Debenhams and Harvey Nichols.

People can also get involved through the Breakthrough bake-off and host their own event.

Head of public health at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Eluned Hughes said: “Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great time for us to raise awareness about the disease but it is also a time for working with communities or with businesses who sell products for us or who did in-store fundraising.

“Funds are massively important. Most funding is from supporters and fundraisers, there are lots of ways people can get involved.

“Breakthrough is leading research so we research prevention, early diagnosis and improving treatments but we also do lots of campaigning as well.

“We are working so women can get the drugs they need at the right price.’’ Breast cancer is so rare among men many do not even realise they can contract the disease.

Raising awareness among men is an important, although less prominent, part of breast cancer awareness month.

Ms Hughes said: “Breast cancer is really rare among men, 350-400 men get it each year. But it is still diagnosed quite late so it is about being aware of changes.

“If men find something unusual they should get it checked out.”

For all suffers, whether men or women, the support offered by charities can be critical.

Ms Hughes said: “It is a difficult time when people are going through breast cancer treatment and people should not have questions unanswered.

“They can come to Breakthrough or other support charities that are available.

“Raising money and awareness to ensure that support keeps going remains vital.”

Claire’s website gets others involved

Claire Grant, 38, from Drayton, near Abingdon, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 while on holiday with husband Peter.

Despite treatment the cancer spread to her lungs and in 2012 she was told she had two years to live.

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Claire, pictured, credits her prolonged life by changing her diet – including cutting out all meat except fish – and taking up yoga and meditation.

She is still working as a beauty therapist and blogs on her illness.

“I set up a website (triplenegative.co.uk) which can involve other people with the disease.

“It has become a way to document what I have been going through and share things with people without having to share them directly.

“I have got people from all over the world contacting me and giving me advice.

“I would not have been able to do it without my family and friends, it is amazing how many people are secretly concerned.

“Breakthrough can’t really do something for me but I wouldn’t like it if other women couldn’t benefit. We are holding a ball in November to raise funds for them. “It is unfair that people with secondary breast cancer do not have the drugs to keep them going a bit longer so they can be with their families.”

Emotional support is so important, says Daphne

Kidlington’s Daphne Norridge, pictured, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and had a mastectomy the following March to remove her right breast. Nine months later she had to have her left breast removed.

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The mum-of-two has since recovered and took part in the Race for Life – a Cancer Research UK national day of fundraising through women-only races – earlier this year to raise money.

She said: “Catching the disease early is really important. I discovered a lump and I went to my GP and he got the ball rolling.

“It is really important that people do get themselves checked.

“Some people are afraid of what could happen. I think most women are thinking ‘Oh no I don’t want to find anything’ so maybe don’t check themselves. It is important to hammer home the consequences about how important it is.

She said: “Sometimes I think people get bored of being asked for money and it can get difficult to keep inspiring them.

“Some of the money goes towards research and the rest on supporting women with breast cancer. benefited from having a one-to-one nurse who helped me throughout treatment.

“Lots of other women didn’t have the support I had so it is important they have that emotional support.’’

Linda’s charity tea and cake has raised £10k

Linda Jeffrey, pictured, from Minster Lovell has raised £10,000 over the last ten years for Breast Cancer Care despite never suffering from the disease herself.

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She started holding tea parties in 2004 and has hosted them at the village hall in Minster Lovell every year since.

Up to 100 people attend each event and Witney MP David Cameron regularly sends a signed box of House of Commons Chocolates for the raffle.

The mum-of-two said: “I had just finished running the local playgroup which I had done for nearly 18 years and a letter arrived on the mat saying they were introducing a new event that year to tie in with Wimbledon and strawberry tea.

“I thought I could get a few people together and could raise some money.

“I thought if I could raise £500 I would be really, really chuffed.

“When I counted the money when I came home I had raised £545. I thought if I spent the year building it up and bought more teapots I could do more the next year and the next year we raised £600.”

In 2012 Mrs Jeffrey had an encounter which brought her closer to the disease than ever before.

She said: “I bumped into my old next door neighbour and discovered she had just had a mastectomy and had moved back to the village and she was the first person I had met who had the disease.

“Somebody hears they have got it and they feel afraid so it is important there is a support mechanism.

“I know it is not me single-handeldy but my friend did say to me if I didn’t organise it wouldn’t have happened.”

Victoria found her lump while taking a shower

Just five days before her 29th birthday, Victoria Lyall was diagnosed with breast cancer, weeks after discovering a lump while in the shower.

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The 31-year-old Sutton Courtney resident, pictured, initially put off going to her GP, thinking it was just a cyst.

She said: “I was in the shower and noticed a lump, which was a shock.

“It was just five days before my 29th birthday, which wasn’t great.

“I was under the impression from magazines I read that you had to have a genetic link so I assumed I couldn’t get it.”

Ms Lyall eventually went to her GP and said she was still fortunate she went relatively soon after discovering the lump.

She said: “Because I am a bit of a hypochondriac the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes so the chemotherapy was not so aggressive.

“I think fundraising is completely vital because there were several times I said during treatment ‘thank goodness I live in this country and we have an NHS and we have good doctors and nurses here in Oxford’.

She said of treatment: “I didn’t have the added stress of trying to wonder where the money would come from.

“People shouldn’t assume others are donating, someone close to you will someday suffer with it.

“It comes to the cost of the coffee you have every day.”

She finished undergoing chemotherapy in February 2014 and is now in remission and takes the drug tamoxifen.

Checking for signs

Breast cancer can be checked using the TLC method – touch, look check.

Touch: Can you feel a lump?

Is there a lumpy area or thickening of breast tissue that doesn’t go away?

Is there any unsual pain?

Look: Is there a change in size, shape, colour or skin texture?

Is there unusual discharge from the nipples?

Is there a rash or crusting on the nipple or surrounding area?

Check: If anything is unusual get it checked out by a GP as soon as possible.

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