App Aims to Educate Young Women About Breast Cancer

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins, B4BC's newly updated app reminds young women to conduct monthly breast self-exams.
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As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins, B4BC's newly updated app reminds young women to conduct monthly breast self-exams.
Malia Manuel

Pro surfer Malia Manuel with B4BC's app. (Photo courtesy of B4BC)

As the executive director of Boarding for Breast Cancer (B4BC.org), Erika Seward knows that many healthy, active-lifestyle young women carry little more than a phone, a wallet and maybe their keys at any given time. So the nonprofit organization, thanks to a grant, has made available for free a B4BC app for Apple and Android devices to keep them informed on the importance of regular breast self-exams.

The newly updated mobile app allows users to set an automatic reminder to do their monthly breast self-exam, one of the best early detectors of breast cancer. The app also has a tutorial to show users how to do it.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so there is no time like the present to download the app, which is available for iPhone and Android users.

B4BC was founded 18 years ago by snowboarders and surfers, who lost a 26-year-old friend named Monica Steward to breast cancer. It has since grown into an organization devoted to education and prevention as well as offering support programs for young people and the active sports community at large. 

Through grassroots events at colleges and other locations, year-round educational outreach and the Survivorship Fund, B4BC carries on its mission of promoting early detection and a healthy, active lifestyle as the best means of preventing breast cancer.

Seward spoke about the app with Not Impossible Now, hoping to get the word out to young, active lifestyle young women about breast cancer prevention. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

NIN: Tell me about this mobile application.

Erika Seward: It launched a couple of weeks ago. Before we only had it available via iTunes, and we did a refresh after we had a chance to test it out for several months. We refreshed the app and figured out the useful utilities and what made the most sense and then decided to launch it on iTunes and on Google Play, so it’s actually a new and improved app from the previous one.

How did you determine this was the best way to get the word out about breast cancer awareness?

Erika: Basically, for those not familiar with our organization, we’re out on the road for probably about 80 events a year with our educational outreach booth, talking to young people one-on-one about early detection and healthy, active living. 

As part of our demonstration being in front of such a youthful audience, we felt the most engaging way to do that was through our iPad app and through the demonstrations that we could do both tangibly in the booth, but also showing them how they could continue that education at home or wherever they go, at their fingertips. 

The app itself allows users to access valuable health and wellness content, wherever they are, and then there is a customizable self-exam reminder that sends a push notification, so you can actually send a reminder based on the date of your last period. That way, you’re able to sync up with the way your body is functioning and the best time of the month to do your breast self-exam.

Who is the target audience for this?

Erika: I would say probably teens all the up with through age 34. We’re out on a college campus tour in the next few weeks, so this is something that we’ll be actively sharing with that demographic.

Boarders for Breast Cancer

B4BC's app includes a self-exam reminder. (Photo courtesy of B4BC)

This age group doesn’t generally think about breast cancer. How do you convince them to regularly self-exam? Are they aware that they should?

Erika: Unfortunately, no. There is some awareness out there; they’ve heard about it. But through our experience in talking to people, they may not be able to make that connection unless they have been personally affected or if they’ve seen somebody go through the disease. 

It’s important for any young person to be an advocate for their own health and to understand what their personal day-to-day lifestyle choices will do to impact their long term health. 

That’s a lot of the messaging that we talk about. It’s the little things that you do, what you’re deciding to put in your body from a nutritional standpoint, to alleviating stress, to a full range of triggers or areas in preventative health. We’re talking about that quite readily. The takeaway is that you can download the app and take the health information with you.

Can you talk about getting snowboarders and surfers like Malia Manuel (pictured above) involved with this?

Erika: That’s the easy part. We started our foundation in 1996. They wanted to put on an event that celebrated (Monica) but also raised money for breast cancer research. Unfortunately, she passed away before she could attend the event. They’ve looked to carry on her legacy all of these years. 

We’ve always had a strong connection to the snowboarding community. A lot of these athletes, being women, believe in the message of empowering young people to be their own advocate and to live a healthy, active lifestyle. It’s something they champion in their day-to-day life and it really resonates with them on that level. We look to them to create that outreach that we wouldn’t be able to have, being such a small organization.

Black Sun Productions built this app through a SIMA Humanitarian Fund grant. What is that?

Erika: We were chosen as a beneficiary through a granting process. They select, on a yearly basis, about 12 nonprofits that serve in the action/sports space. They selected us, which is a huge honor, because a lot of the organizations that are part of this group are some of the biggest brands that are part of this industry. So that’s something we’re super proud of. We applied their funds toward creating this new platform for our community.

How do people access the app?

Erika: It’s free, so people can download it on their iPhones or iPads, any mobile device. It’s a pretty clean interface. It’s really colorful and youthful. There’s a lot in there to dig around and play with. As far as utilities go, this self-exam reminder is something we’d like to push for, but there are also events that we do periodically throughout the year, so those also are there. People who are participating can use the GPS functionality that’s in there when they’re participating. And, of course, all our health and wellness information is there.

It’s updated periodically, right?

Erika: Oh yeah. It’s constantly updated and refreshed. We have a lot of fun little things we do with signups where we’re working with athletes to encourage people to download the app and go in there and sign up for monthly contests and giveaways with some of their brand partners. We feel this is something that can excite people and keep them coming back to it.

Learn more about B4BC at their website, Facebook page and Twitter account. B4BC's app is available for iPhone and Android users.

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