Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Meet Know Your Lemons, the ONLY Charity Offering Global Breast Health Education

By Grit Daily Staff Grit Daily Staff has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on October 1, 2022

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is a time to show support for those who have battled the disease and raise awareness about breast cancer and its impact. Despite a sea of pink for support all month, not many men and women can recognize signs of the disease. According to a 2018 survey of 19,000 women, only 2% knew all the signs of breast cancer. This is why education – not just awareness – is so essential, shares Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont, PhD, the CEO of the Know Your Lemons foundation.

As we begin this October, Grit Daily asked Corrine about the importance of breast health education as well as the unique work her foundation is doing that is impacting lives for the better each and every day.

Grit Daily: What is Know Your Lemons and how did the foundation come to be?

Dr. Beaumont: We are a global nonprofit organization that saves lives from breast cancer using a creative approach to educate people about breast health, using lemons as a metaphor for breasts. It started after my grandmothers and a close friend died from breast cancer and I wanted to use my skills in design to better address health communication and  education. So I got a PhD in the topic to learn how to save lives through early detection education, and I started the charity with my own savings. In just 6 short years we’ve reached over 1.5 billion people online with our educational work!

Dr. Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont

Grit Daily: Is breast health education lacking? Why is this and what obstacles are there for people in trying to become educated about breast cancer?

Dr. Beaumont: We learn about every part of the body in school—except breasts. Breasts are associated with sex, rather than breast feeding or cancer. Because of this, it’s omitted as a topic from health textbooks and rarely seen in anatomy drawings. A few years ago an anatomy drawing of what the internal parts of a breast looked like went viral because no one had seen it before. Because we don’t talk about breast health in school, it sends an implicit message that there’s nothing we need to know about our breast health. Our work is helping to close this gender inequity gap because the reality is that women just a few years after high school graduation are getting diagnosed with breast cancer, and the only way it’s discovered at that age is by recognizing a symptom and reporting it themselves. 

Grit Daily: Why did you choose lemons as the driving visual behind the foundation’s campaign?

Dr. Beaumont: In order to overcome taboo and fear, the message needs to avoid censorship and be approachable. In my doctoral research, I discovered that lemons have the same physical features as a breast: skin pores, a nipple, and that internally it resembles breast anatomy. What’s even more interesting is that a cancerous lump often feels hard like a lemon seed and is usually immovable. This means I was able to use lemons to illustrate in perfect detail what each of the 12 symptoms of breast cancer can look and feel like, in a way that can be displayed anywhere to anyone. Because it’s unique, people say that it sticks in their mind. Many patients have said that it was our image that helped them recognize their symptom, often years after first seeing the image!

Grit Daily: What makes Know Your Lemons unique? How have the foundation’s efforts and research impacted lives?

Dr. Beaumont: What makes us unique is our ability to educate regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, and literacy level, allowing us to educate on a global scale with a single campaign. With one campaign we can reach an incredibly diverse audience, and because our method of educating is so accessible, it means people are teaching with our materials in places where breasts are not considered approachable subjects like in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the workplace, and in high schools. Our research has found that 93% of people plan to get screened after interacting with our educational programs, which is a remarkable achievement. Seeing our work motivates people towards positive health behaviors. Our work has impacted lives – by saving them. Take Lynsey, for example, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24 after her partner shared our 12 signs of breast cancer with her. And Lucie, who credits the Know Your Lemons app with saving her life. Or Robyn, a young mother living in the UK who was diagnosed early because she saw our education campaign. 

Grit Daily: What educational tools or resources does Know Your Lemons offer that people can take advantage of? Is there a cost involved

Dr. Beaumont: We offer three educational programs. Our campaign is available both digitally and in print in 32 languages as of today. These are available in our education shop, and 100% of purchases support our mission and programs. 

The second resource we offer is the Know Your Lemons app, which was named one of the Top 5 Health and Fitness apps for 2022 by the Webby Awards (Oscars of the Internet). It calculates your risk, creates a custom screening plan for you, explains the 12 symptoms, prepares you for your mammogram and other breast tests, and teaches you how to self-exam and sends you reminders timed to your body. It includes a period tracker and we don’t collect data. We’ve had patients say it was the app that helped them discover a symptom and get diagnosed early. And it’s absolutely free.

The third is Breast School. These are classes that are taught by trained volunteers called “Lemonistas”, high school teachers, or through employee education programs that we provide. This is an interactive way of teaching breast health to those who may not have access to an app, or have resources to seek out breast health information on their own. It’s a way of improving health equity and saving lives through group education. We started this program in March of 2020, and because we are designed as a virtual organization, we have grown to over 500 trained educators teaching in 57 countries!

Grit Daily: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Especially with breast cancer having recently surpassed lung cancer as the most common cancer diagnosed globally, what is most important to impart to people this October when it comes to breast cancer?

Dr. Beaumont: This October it’s important to go beyond being “aware” breast cancer exists to being educated about it so that people are empowered to be proactive about their breast health before cancer shows up. There is a lot of funding that goes towards treatment research, but very little is spent on education to help prevent deaths from breast cancer that are discovered too late. In fact, when breast cancer is found in the earliest stage, survival rates are 99%. But when it’s discovered in Stage 4, it’s unsurvivable. To make a real difference, start by educating yourself. The easiest way to do that is to download our app, learn your risk and set up healthy habits. Then if you want to help make a difference for others, donate to our educational programs, volunteer, or share our posts on social media. You never know who is going to have their life saved because you shared an image on Instagram, or gave the price of a cup of coffee once a month to expand our work to a new language. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be involved and we are just getting started.

By Grit Daily Staff Grit Daily Staff has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

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