The good news is: The earlier breast cancer is detected the faster it can be treated, which means that cure is more likely. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2022 we spoke with Sonja Dinner from The DEAR Foundation to learn why regular breast checks are so important, and how the breast cancer awareness campaign “DearMamma” encourages women worldwide to check their breasts regularly.
Please tell us about “DearMamma”. What is the goal of the campaign?
The aim is to reach one billion people and inform them about early signs of cancer. We want to enable people – mostly women, but also men – to take care of themselves, to know about early signs of breast cancer and to prevent unnecessary deaths. It takes only 3 to 4 minutes a month and it can potentially save your life. Breast cancer can be deadly, but the good news is that the options for treatment are very good – if we are early enough.
How did you come up with DearMamma?
On my travels I got to know many people who lost a mother, sister or wife to breast cancer. And also I lost, among many other people, a very dear friend. I promised her that if ever I could do something against breast cancer, I would do all I can to prevent such fates and use the advantages of technology. Since I am coming professionally from IT, I waited desperately for the internet to have enough bandwidth to transport pictures, film and speech and for practically all women to have access to a smartphone. And then an app is the best tool to inform, instruct and remind women around the world to check themselves monthly.
What does it do?
You get information about early signs of breast cancer like lumps or bulging of the skin, to only mention two. You can watch a video instruction or use graphics to be guided through the self-check step by step. You can even take notes and set a reminder for the next self-check. And oncologists and religious leaders encourage the women to do exactly that.
What are the benefits of the DearMamma app?
Oh, there are so many! First of all, it’s free and it’s available in 11 languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, Urdu, Bengali and Chinese. For illiterate people or people with poor reading skills, we included a read aloud function. The app talks to you in your mother tongue!
Further, it has no advertisements. Once downloaded, it works offline, and we collect no data. The information is on your phone and stays there.
Why are self-checks important?
Well, first it’s important to know your own body. How do my breasts feel and look like? Only if we are familiar with “our normal”, we can detect changes early. Second, a regular visit to a gynecologist is important wherever possible. But of course many women around the world do not have access to such health services.
In the meantime, so many things can develop in the breast. I don’t want to spread panic, but I’ve heard so many stories of women who detected lumps themselves. One particular story comes to my mind where someone was cleared by her doctor and then detected a lump only ten days later. It turned out it was an aggressive tumor. Luckily, she was early enough and is healthy again.
1 out of 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. We can’t change that number, but we can try to change how early a woman detects something.
Oh, and you know what is equally important?
To do the self-checks correctly. It has nothing to do with gently caressing the skin. You really have to do it the right way and go deep into your breast tissue. Of course it depends on your breast size, but you should feel your ribcage. And don’t forget to check the armpits as well.
What are the next steps for the campaign?
Well, we have many ideas (laughs). We have many successful collaborations that we want to extend further. For example in Jerusalem and Palestine or in Ethiopia. The local nurses, doctors and health workers do a wonderful job and raise awareness in gatherings, group discussions, events and much more.
But what would also be a brilliant next step is if we could bring more doctors and gynecologists on board. They could use our app and material for patient education and inform patients about self-checks. Of course, the doctor’s visit is still mandatory if available, but if we could work together, we could detect signs earlier and gain valuable time.
“DearMamma” is a project of The DEAR Foundation. Can you tell us more about the goals of the foundation?
The DEAR Foundation was founded in 2006 and is religiously and financially independent. We handled over 1,000 projects all over the world and focus on health, education and poverty alleviation. DearMamma is one of our biggest projects. In all our projects we want to empower people and support them to be independent at the end of the day.
Thank you very much for your insight!
You are very welcome! And don’t forget to download the app today.
The best thing about the DearMamma app:
- It’s absolutely free.
- Once downloaded, the app is fully functional even offline.
- The entire text in the app can also be read aloud.
- Personal data is only stored on your own device. DearMamma does not collect it and does not have access to it.
- Various settings according to own needs possible (e.g. skin tone, security code).
- The app is available in 11 languages (German, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and Chinese).