The Breast Cancer Research Action Group, which is composed entirely of volunteers, was set up by ex-patients in 1994 to campaign for a dedicated Breast Unit at the General Infirmary at Leeds. Prior to this time, patients had been nursed in general surgical wards, and some even in mixed sex wards. The campaign was successful and the group raised £7,500 in a few months to help furnish the new Breast Unit which opened in April 1995. It was the first such unit in Yorkshire and was described by the Minister of State to the Cabinet Office as "a trailblazer for others to follow" and was awarded the Government's Charter Mark in 1999.
Having achieved our original goal, and with the encouragement of the senior surgical consultants, we then turned our efforts into raising money to fund vital research. An alarming number of women in the UK, about 38,000, are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and the number of deaths from the disease is about 13,000 annually.
Since 1996 we have supported the salaries of two Research Registrars, whose work has been submitted to medical and surgical conferences in both national and international arenas.
BCRAG set up a fund in memory of a founder member of our group who was a nurse; the Margaret Turner Trust Fund supports nursing staff from the Breast Unit in attending conferences, study days, seminars, etc., enabling them to keep up to date with the latest techniques and treatments.
The group also established the post of Research Nurse, which made it possible for patients to be given full explanations on the research and to be recruited into clinical trials. The NHS has now recognised the value of this post and has taken over the payment of this salary.
The group was nominated for an award in 2001 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer for volunteers in the community, and was invited to the House of Commons when presentations were made.
BCRAG has become more widely recognised over the years and we have been chosen as the "Charity of the Year" by some companies, and have received generous donations from many organisations and individuals.
Our fundraising activities have been varied, ranging from antiques valuation evenings, aromatherapy demonstrations, to large scale sponsored events, auctions, garden parties, fashion shows (in which all the models have been breast cancer patients), not forgetting the annual Pink Appeal in June, the Breast Cancer Awareness Month collections each October and our weekly Bric-a-brac stall at the Leeds General Infirmary. The Ilkley Luncheon Club was also set up to help raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Action Group, and in five years raised over £21,000.
All the money raised goes into the fund which is used for research and special items of equipment which will directly help breast cancer patients. BCRAG has no salary costs or overheads. In June 2002 we passed the £quarter-million mark and since our fundraising campaign began, we have raised £487,233.
In our "action" group role, we have campaigned for government intervention to improve the unacceptably long waiting times for radiotherapy and also to increase facilities and staffing for the Radiotherapy service in our region.
WE BELIEVE THAT RESEARCH IS A VITAL COMPONENT OF CANCER SERVICES, SINCE IT OFFERS THE BEST HOPE OF FUTURE CURE.
For three years from August 2005 we funded the full-time salary of a Research Scientist and Research Technician, the costs of these salaries, together with laboratory "consumables" was in the region of £216,000.
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR NEWS OF FUTURE APPOINTMENTS.