30 October, 2023

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 55,000 people diagnosed yearly. This means that most of us know someone who has been diagnosed with the disease, and in some cases, that person is the one who looks back at us in the mirror every morning. 

Despite being so common in our society, spaces for conversations around breast cancer prevention are still few and far between. 

Assistant Head of Coaching at QPR, Manisha Tailor MBE, sat down with Breast Cancer UK to discuss the importance of normalising conversations about women’s health. 

“I come from a sporting background, and as most would know, it hasn’t historically been an inclusive space for women.

“However, one area that I would say that sport succeeds in is normalising the conversation of talking about our bodies, in particular injuries. ” 

“It’s common to hear women talking about knocks, sprains, breaks and tendon tears in this setting. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s encouraged. Team doctors and physiotherapists encourage players to openly share how their bodies are feeling. This helps them offer the most effective treatment to get players up and running again. 

“But these open discussions about our bodies haven’t translated into wider society. Injuries are seen as part of the parcel of being a professional athlete, but when you remove the comfort zone of sport and talk about women’s bodies independently, there’s a stigma attached to it. It’s easier for a woman to talk about an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear, that might happen once in a career than it is to talk about a period that happens every month. 

“Worryingly, the taboo around talking about women’s bodies has put many of us in a reactive position, instead of a proactive position, when looking after our health. Being able to talk about our bodies is crucial. It helps to create an awareness of when things aren’t functioning properly, as well as the support channels available. Not being able to have these discussions is literally costing people their lives. 

“Words like breast, vagina and period are seen as dirty. Outside of conversations between women, society doesn’t make space for this. In my opinion, this has contributed to these things not being spoken about openly within South Asian communities.

“We need to be able to talk about our bodies and conditions that affect us, like breast cancer and endometriosis. ”  

“When I say ‘we’ I don’t only mean women. I mean men too. Male allyship is important. There are a lot of spaces in society that are male-dominated and we need these conversations to penetrate those spaces. These discussions need to be had in all communities and workplaces so that there can be better awareness.

“Living a healthy and active lifestyle will reduce your risk of breast cancer and many other diseases, but the precursor to all this is conversation. Conversation is the first step in prevention. 

“What happens to women’s bodies isn’t only a women’s issue. It affects everyone around us, too. And for that reason, everyone needs to create a space for us to talk about it.” 

If you were inspired by Manisha’s story and would like to find out more about empowering women’s health, read her amazing book ‘Dream Like Me: South Asian Football Trailblazers’. 

Start your breast cancer prevention journey today by taking our prevention quiz.

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