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Brave women stand up to cancer and bare their mastectomy scars

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by Cancer Research UK | News

2 October 2017

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Stand Up To Cancer mastectomy portraits.

Fourteen women who were diagnosed with breast cancer, including some who are still receiving treatment, have taken part in a photo shoot for Stand Up To Cancer, showing their mastectomy scars in a series of gritty and honest portraits.

“We’re honoured to share this incredible project showing truly inspirational women. And we’re grateful to all of them for being part of it. Ami’s powerful images perfectly capture their strength and defiance.” – Rachel Carr, Cancer Research UK

The project, called ‘Mastectomy’, has been released as part of the Stand Up To Cancer campaign and marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Launched in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer is a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4, raising money to support game-changing cancer research that will help save lives.

Shot by Ami Barwell, 39, a York-based photographer, the project was inspired by Ami’s mum, Sue, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. She underwent a mastectomy, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, then in 2011 the cancer returned in her lymph nodes. Sue, 69, was treated again with chemotherapy and has since made a full recovery.

Photographer Ami Barwell said: “It was absolutely devastating when my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wanted to shoot this project to raise awareness and show the defiance of women who remain equally as beautiful without breasts”.

“Stand Up To Cancer is about bringing people together to rebel and rise up against cancer. The photographs show that, despite what they’ve been through, these women are empowered. They are strong, happy and sexy.”

Amongst the women photographed is Gillian Trim, 55, from London, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and has had a double mastectomy. She said: “I wanted to take part not only to show other people that you can still be sexy and beautiful after a mastectomy but also to celebrate my own journey and to remind myself how strong I am.”

Mel Johnston, 46, from Merseyside, was diagnosed in 2014 with breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. She had treatment including chemotherapy and surgery but last year, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to both lungs, and is now incurable. She said: “I’m so proud to be part of this project. Stand Up To Cancer is all about sticking two fingers up at cancer and I think Ami’s captured that beautifully.

“I wanted to be involved partly because, when it comes to new experiences, the word ‘no’ is no longer in my vocabulary. Since having cancer I want to embrace every opportunity that comes my way and really live life to the max. But I also want to demystify mastectomy scars. I’m still a woman and I wanted to show that breasts do not define my sexuality or gender. I’m still me despite having a part of my body missing.”

Rachel Carr, head of Stand Up To Cancer at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re honoured to share this incredible project showing truly inspirational women. And we’re grateful to all of them for being part of it. Ami’s powerful images perfectly capture their strength and defiance.

“We’ve made amazing progress against cancer over the past few decades, but we know that one in two people in the UK will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, so we can’t afford to slow down. We hope these images will inspire the nation to join the rebellion and help fund our ground-breaking research so that we can help save more lives, faster.”

The Stand Up To Cancer campaign will continue throughout October and there are lots of ways that people can get involved. From being a ‘hair raiser’ and waxing or shaving body parts to raise cash, to dusting off aprons to create and sell ‘ballsy bakes’, or getting sponsored to take part in ‘Game On’, Stand Up To Cancer’s gaming marathon, there’s more than one way to rebel this autumn.

There were around 55,200 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the UK in 2014, and sadly, around 11,200 deaths from breast cancer in 2015. In 2010-11, around 78% of women in England and Wales survived their breast cancer for 10 years or more.*

Stand Up To Cancer’s research trials and projects into breast cancer include: developing drugs to stop cancer cells ‘shape-shifting’ and spreading; using a simple blood test to uncover individual cancer’s weaknesses and target treatments; testing a new type of drug to see if it can stop breast cancers coming back; and using Artificial Intelligence to analyse how advanced a cancer is.

To find out how you can join the rebellion against cancer, visit:

If you or someone close to you has been affected by cancer and you’ve got questions, you can call Cancer Research UK’s nurses for free on 0808 800 4040, open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

To see more of Ami’s work go to