Survival rates for breast cancer are higher than ever, but that doesn’t mean the battle is over.

Around 50,000 women and 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, and it’s estimated that one woman in eight will get the disease in her lifetime.

Around 85% now survive beyond five years after diagnosis thanks to advances in research and treatments, screening and earlier diagnoses.

But surviving isn’t the end of the battle. Post-cancer life is often plagued by hidden side effects, and getting ‘back to normal’ is more complex than people might expect.

This is what Breast Cancer Care’s #hiddeneffects campaign aims to highlight this month.

And it’s not just the well-known effects of cancer treatment, like hair-loss after chemotherapy, or physical changes after a mastectomy, but other problems, such as losing fingernails, the loss of fertility, early menopause, fatigue and weight gain.

Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, says: “When you’ve been through something so traumatic, often everyone expects you to get back to normal after the treatment, but many people don’t feel like the person they were before it all started.”

There are also deep psychological challenges. Rawson explains that the charity frequently hears from women who are struggling with side-effects like the loss of femininity and trying to regain body confidence after surgery.

“Often it’s these unexpected effects of breast cancer that hit people the hardest, especially when they keep them hidden from their friends or family, who may think and want them to be ‘recovered’ and ‘back to normal’.”

Rawson adds: “We want to raise awareness, so that more women know that Breast Cancer Care is here to support anyone waking up to the harsh reality of breast cancer every day.”


Early diagnosis is still absolutely crucial for the best chances of surviving breast cancer.

CoppaFeel! is also hoping to help the message hit home this year, with their #whatnormalfeelslike advertising campaign featuring women’s bare breasts with full frontal photographs of breasts painted with words that describe how they feel to each woman, like ‘squidgy’, ‘spongy’ and ‘bobbly’.

Kris Hallenga, who founded CoppaFeel! after being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at the age of 23, says: “The more normal it is to talk about boobs, the more likely women are to check themselves regularly and spot any changes early.”

Visit normalfeelslike/


During October, several charities are encouraging us to wear pink, and hold pink-themed parties to raise money for breast cancer research and support services. For more information visit breastcancer