Since 1985, October has been dubbed Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer organizations and charities internationally aim to bring awareness to this devastating disease that is the most deadly cancer for women worldwide.
Four years ago, we had the pleasure of speaking with Shaney Jo Darden, the founder of Keep A Breast Foundation. Keep A Breast has a unique mission in that it focuses on “Empowering young people around the world with breast health support and education.”
Given the unique circumstances of 2020, we wondered how KAB was adapting to the times, so we reached out to Shaney Jo again to find out what’s new in her world.
Good Clean Love (GCL): What’s new in your work with Keep a Breast?
Shaney Jo Darden (SJD): So many exciting things! We have a brand new app: The Keep A Breast App. We’d been planning on updating the app for a bit, so we asked people what they thought was missing and also asked to know about more of what they wanted to see; then we set out to make it happen. We thought our 20th anniversary was the perfect time to give it a refresh and to get the message out there that we are working towards breast health for all. Many people don’t feel safe going to hospitals during a global pandemic unless they really have to. This feature helps you to know whether you really need to see a doctor in person.
The Keep A Breast App does more than just walk you through your self-check, it also lets you align it to your period tracking. In addition, it gives you resources and scripts if you find something outside of your normal, such as a lump, so that you can connect with a virtual healthcare provider through our partner Carbon Health. Finally, it links you to more prevention education.
We’re also developing The KAB Valley, a boutique wellness center designed as a desert community that will provide the space and tools for visitors, survivors, and caretakers to explore and nurture individual and collective wellness. This center will serve as a retreat space for community enrichment and survivor support, as well as artist in residence-led youth prevention programs.
GCL: What’s changed since we last spoke in 2016?
SJD: In the world, a lot, but our mission remains the same. In the last four years we’ve adapted the way we run our campaigns based on where young people are hanging out. For 18 years, Vans Warped Tour gave us a platform to meet young people in their element. Now, with online platforms growing in influence even more, we’ve adapted our campaigns to be digitally dynamic so we can create momentum online and carry that momentum through communities in person when we are able to again.
As we bring new young people into the movement, we’re also creating content and education for those who have been with us since the very beginning. By encouraging them to use their voice and influence in their world we can broaden the reach of our message of prevention.
GCL: What kind of progress has been made by Keep A Breast and it’s mission to aid in breast cancer prevention amongst youth?
SJD: Prevention and early detection are present in everything we do. Progress is made by more young people checking themselves, getting education in the hands of more people in an accessible way, and actionable steps being taken in people’s lives.
Over the last few years, thanks to partners, supporters, and a dedicated staff, our app has empowered tens of thousands of people in more than 170 countries to check themselves. Our Fit 4 Prevention campaign has encouraged movement as a means for prevention, and our prevention education has been read millions of times.
When people have the knowledge to be their own health advocates, our mission creates change.
GCL: What are the challenges in the current political climate and with COVID?
SJD: We love our community, so not being able to take our traveling education booth to festivals, markets, and marches has left us missing our community and that important part of our work. But, as health is our number one goal, we’ve made sure to adapt and continue to help our supporters during this stressful moment in time. Thankfully, our messages come through online and we’ve spent years creating a strong presence on social media.
The political climate has always been a challenge for the goal of prevention. If we’ve learned anything in the last 20 years it’s that cancer is profitable. If corporations stand to lose profit from more regulations that expose environmental causes of breast cancer, it will always be a challenge. As many organizations push important legislation to expose these holes in regulation of toxic chemicals and pollution, we focus on educating people and showing them the power they have to make change in their community and save their life through early detection.
The growing opposition to accessible healthcare for women and femme-identifying folx is another challenge, especially for people of color. This threat is another reason we are leaning even harder into the work we’ve been doing to create accessible ways for people to get the support they need, like our free app and it’s features that virtually connect you with a medical professional.
GCL: What are the best things young people can do at home for breast cancer prevention?
SJD: Early detection is key, and knowing your “normal” is how you know when something is wrong. A big step for prevention is downloading the newly redesigned Keep A Breast App and doing your self-check each month.
We started our campaign Fit 4 Prevention because research suggests that just 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 days a week lowers your risk of breast cancer by 30-50%. Fit 4 Prevention is held annually during the month of October. We invite any and all studios, gyms, and individuals around the country to raise funds through donation-based classes in order to move your body for prevention, and support and increase awareness for The Keep A Breast Foundation. You can find a class near you at https://www.fit4prevention.org/.
Ten years into founding Keep A Breast, prevention research revealed that only 10-15% of breast cancer diagnoses were caused by family history and genetics. Our program Non Toxic Revolution gives useful tips on how to lower your risk by making small changes in your life.
GCL: How can readers get involved?
SJD: Follow us on Instagram @keepabreast to stay up-to-date on all things prevention and how you can be your own health advocate. You can also host a DIY fundraiser to raise funds in your community.
You can read more about Keep A Breast’s work here: www.keep-a-breast.org/our-work.
Shaney Jo Darden is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Keep A Breast. She is also an artist and designer who worked in the skateboarding design industry in the 1990s. She founded KAB in 2000 when she found out about a friend of hers, in her 20s, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She combines her love of art, passion for skateboarding and the calling to do this work to make KAB what it is today.