Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Through our Wise Women Collective, we spotlight women whom we admire and who inspire.
Meet Shaney Jo Darden, Founder and COO of the Keep A Breast Foundation. An organization built to teach young people about the care and prevention of breast cancer. We highlight her today, on the first day of October which marks the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
OB: Can you tell us about the KABF mission and what it means to you?
SJ: Our mission is to reduce breast cancer risk and its impact globally through art, education, prevention, and action.
Our mission is personal to me because I founded Keep A Breast over 21 years ago after a friend, who was in her 20’s, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since the beginning, Keep A Breast has made connections with younger generations about breast health through music, art, skate, and surf culture. We meet young people where they are and we empower them with the education to help them be their own, best health advocates.
OB: Since KABF’s intention is advocacy and outreach, particularly among young women, can you tell us how your mission is accomplished?
SJ: It started with the awareness that breast cancer doesn’t just happen after we turn 40. That was the message young people were getting, not to think about it until a doctor recommends mammograms. It’s grown into so much more. Our original intention of awareness around breast cancer in young people grew into helping them establish a positive relationship with their breasts, that isn’t rooted in any shame, so they know their body and know when something is wrong. So we created our Check Yourself! Program, and the Keep A Breast App to give young people (or anyone!) the tools to do their monthly self-check and have access to virtual health professionals that will be there to support them. Then the awareness turned into an urgent need for prevention, so we created Non Toxic Revolution and Fit 4 Prevention to address ways breast cancer can form outside of the 10-15% of diagnosis that come from genes and family history. Whether it’s online or in person, we give young people the tools to be their own health advocate and lower their risk of breast cancer through education and action, and we partner with organizations that are challenging and changing the regulations of toxic products.
OB: Can you talk about the statistics on women in the US with a history of breast cancer compared to women globally?
SJ: Over 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States each year. Approximately 12,000 of those diagnosed are under the age of 40. When breast cancer is detected early (in the localized stage) the 5-year survival rate is 98% (National Cancer Institute).
In France, breast cancer rates under 40 are 5%, and in Mexico 15%. The global rate of breast cancer under 40 is 7%. Young people often face delayed diagnosis because people don’t believe them or think it can happen. Then, they’re often dealing with more aggressive tumors at a later stage.
Because of this, and the increased awareness of breast cancer among women over 40, we thought it was and is crucial to fill this gaping whole in advocacy for young people.
OB: An alarming stat is that for women 50 years of age, incidence rates have slowly increased. This is very disturbing - to what is this attributed? How can KABF help?
SJ: Our mission is centered around young people, but everything we do can help someone at any age lower their risk and we welcome them into our programs. I think what we can do is keep making young people aware of what causes breast cancer, and focus on prevention, so we can see those rates decrease in the future.
OB: One of the most unique programs you’ve done is the breast casting as art. How did that come to be and where can people see them/learn more?
SJ: The concept of having artists paint on breast casts was inspired by Frida Kahlo. She was confined to a cast after breaking her spinal column, ribs, and pelvis, and I was inspired by the images of her painting her own cast. She made incredible beauty out of a painful situation.
In the beginning, I never intended on starting a non-profit. It just happened very organically with the help of friends and supporters. Art can change lives, make people think, and make people act. And for KAB, it inspires people to be their own health advocates. Whatever we do, art is always at our core.
You can see some of our Breast Cast art here: https://www.keep-a-breast.org/breast-casts
And if you know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer who would like to have their own breast cast, you can get one through out Treasured Chest Program: https://www.keep-a-breast.org/treasured-chest-program
OB: Tell us about your ‘Fit 4 Prevention’ movement. Can the Owl's Brew community get involved?
SJ: Every year in October we launch Fit 4 Prevention, a movement with a goal to inspire people to reduce their risk of cancers by adopting a healthier, more active lifestyle, in a way that sparks their inner champion. This year is no different! At fit4prevention.org, you can attend or host a virtual workout class and fundraise for Keep A Breast’s work and mission.
In support of the Keep A Breast mission, Owl’s Brew has committed to donating $1 for every download of the App during the month of October up to $2,500. Download now for prevention tips, breast health resources and information, and join us in spreading the word by tagging @theowlsbrew @keepabreast and using #drinkwisedrinkpink during the month of October.