Breast cancer…not just a disease of older women

Shanna (Shan) had a kind heart, gentle spirit and a smile that would radiate across the room. Shan was a gifted artist, skilled swimming instructor and professional figure skating coach. Shan loved to work with children and planned to teach. She had graduated from university and was heading off to teacher’s college when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

Living her beliefs, Shan always took a positive outlook on life. She accepted the tests and breast cancer treatments with determined optimism and said “let’s get this show on the road.” Sadly the predictions of hope were not to be realized and Shan passed away a few months later. Like many young adults, Shan’s symptoms were misdiagnosed, her cancer was not detected early and it spread quickly. Shan was only 24.

Friends and family bonded together in their loss to preserve Shan’s spirit. Team Shan Breast Cancer Awareness for Young Women (Team Shan), a Canadian charity, was established in Shan’s memory to raise awareness that breast cancer is not just a disease of older women. The Team Shan logo and sunflower graphics used in our work were inspired from Shan’s original artwork.

Team Shan has produced a successful communication model to reach young women with breast cancer messages. Shan’s story and the theme “breast cancer…not just a disease of older women” are reflected in our print materials, media and marketing activities.

Team Shan works primarily in high schools and on college and university campuses across Canada. Young women have responded positively to the awareness campaigns, understood their breast cancer risk and increased their knowledge of the disease, risk factors, symptoms and self help strategies.

Young women have become more “breast aware” with information that will last their lifetime. Self detection information has provided young women with the opportunity to bring any breast cancer symptom to the attention of their health care provider. Young women have appreciated not being forgotten in breast cancer messaging.

Team Shan continues to work towards our goals to increase early detection and improve outcomes for young women diagnosed with the disease. Team Shan activities continue with a passion and commitment that are making a difference for young women following in Shan’s footsteps.

Lorna Larsen Team Shan President

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