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    You can live with cancer, stresses Cherie

    Cherie Blair
    Mrs Blair has family experience of breast cancer

    Cherie interview
    Cherie Blair, the Prime Minister's wife, talks about her aunt's breast cancer, and why she is a patron of the charity Breast Cancer Care.

    She told BBC News 24 presenter Louise Minchin she is determined to raise awareness of the disease.

    "Breast cancer is an issue that is really important to me.

    "In 1987 my aunt died of breast cancer. She had been diagnosed just under five years before that, so our family had lived with her, and her breast cancer journey, for five years.

    "Things were very, very different in the 1980s. For a start there was still a lot of taboo about even talking about breast cancer, and that is something that charities like Breast Cancer Care have done a lot to overcome.

    "The treatments, of course, were not as sophisticated then, and the truth was my aunt left it too long before she reported the lump in her breast.

    "Partly it was embarrassment, partly a hope that it would just go away.

    "That is why information campaigns are so important, because they have to say: 'No, it won't just go away, and if you come as soon as possible it is more likely we can deal with it, leave it too late and the chances of it going away are more remote'.

    So many mothers neglect themselves

    "We have had some great successes. People talk about breast cancer these days.

    "In fact, people involved with many other diseases say how lucky we are in breast cancer because it has been taken up as an issue, and people are much more aware of it.

    "But we have also found that is not the case for all women.

    "Two years ago we launched research we did into minority ethnic women, and discovered that for them there are still taboos: embarrassment about your body, fear about talking about it, even shame about being ill.

    "So we have been concentrating on trying to target messages to those communities, and in addition to that I have discovered that those taboos and fears are replicated across the world."

    Women come last

    Mrs Blair has travelled widely promoting awareness of breast cancer.

    We should ensure that having breast cancer isn't something that will make you feel you can't carry on doing whatever it is you want to do

    "In Pakistan one of the things they were concentrating on was to approach women, and say: 'Think about your children. If you want to secure the future for them, you have got to make sure you have got to look after yourself'.

    "So many mothers neglect themselves, particularly in countries where there is huge amounts of deprivation and poverty.

    "The women always come last, and it is terribly important that they understand that by looking after themselves they are actually giving their family what they need most, which is a mother at home to be there for them.

    Kylie Minogue
    Mrs Blair said Kylie Minogue was 'remarkable'

    "We still have to get those healthy living messages over. That's about being careful about what you eat, the way you cook.

    "But Breast Cancer Care is more concerned with helping women get through the ups and downs of living with breast cancer.

    "Our main message is that you can live with breast cancer. You can live a long, fulfilled, happy life, and there is everything to fight for.

    "We should ensure that having breast cancer isn't something that will make you feel you can't carry on doing whatever it is you want to do.

    "One thing I have learned is that women with breast cancer really do appreciate talking to someone who has been there before.

    "So many of them are strong for their families, but sometimes to meet someone who actually really knows what it is about, and to be brutally honest with them is really, really important.

    Positive message

    Mrs Blair praised the singer Kylie Minogue for the way she had dealt with breast cancer.

    "She is a remarkable woman, the way she has gone through her journey with such dignity and beauty sends a really important message.

    "But it is important to remember that young women with breast cancer are in a minority. Eighty per cent of breast cancer cases are women over 50.

    "Being breast aware is the most important thing. Just having a mammogram every two years isn't enough.

    "You need to be aware what your breast feel like, what is normal for you, and if you notice something different don't think I should not make a fuss, go and get it checked out.

    "Hopefully most of the time it will be perfectly good news, but for the time when it isn't good news the sooner you get it checked the better."