When you see our name Lady McAdden Breast Cancer Trust, you may wonder why Lady McAdden is part of our name and who she was. Since it is 49 years to the day since the launch of our Trust Fund, we thought we’d tell you our history. 

It began in 1968 when a purse was found after a Townswomen’s Guild meeting. At around the same time, it was becoming apparent in healthcare that detecting breast changes early would drastically reduce death rates of breast cancer. The purse lay unclaimed for months so eventually, the chairman of the SE Essex Federation of Guilds, Norma Heigho, suggested that the money should be used to start a fundraising campaign for a unit to detect breast changes – an ambitious idea since the purse only contained the equivalent of 38p! However, in just a few years, the Federation had managed to raise an astonishing £11,000. 

By 1974, the Federation had garnered support from Southend’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Gilbert Griffin and his colleague Dr D.L Phillips, who was a radiologist at Southend hospital. On April 4th of the same year, a fundraising appeal was launched. Half of the £100,000 target was hit within the first year, proving how important breast health was to the public. 

The federation was, at this point, unnamed so the wife of the local MP, Sir Stephen McAdden, agreed to give her name to the Trust Fund and so it became Lady McAdden BUST. BUST stood for Breast Unit Screening Trust. Charity walks, balls and auctions were arranged – with donations for auction from famous celebrities including the American president at the time, President Ford! – and by 1976, enough money had been raised to open the unit. The service really was a trailblazer, promoting self-checks, the awareness of visual breast changes and offering one to one appointments with a nurse, breast screening – which at this stage was thermal imaging – and a family history clinic. It would be another 12 years before the NHS Breast Screening Programme would commence. 

Over the next year the trust gained momentum and even got the attention of Princess Margaret who paid a Royal visit on 26th June 1977 to see how the unit operated. This wasn’t our only Royal connection, as in 2003 Norma Heigho, who had initiated the whole charity 39 years previously, was invited to visit the Queen! The Queen was very interested in the work of BUST. 

The work changed over the years, of course, and the thermal imaging was replaced by mammography. In 1998, new rules were introduced by the government and the RCN which banned the physical touching of patients during breast awareness. The reason behind this change was a false sense of security among women and the neglect of self-examination which could lead to breast changes being missed. And that is where our work still stands today. The unexpected years of Covid forced us to evolve our services and a loss of lease meant that we had to move premises. But our passion for breast awareness holds firm, empowering people to be confident to self-check and know what changes to look for.