Classic Paintings Prompt Breast Cancer Awareness
Centuries on, classic paintings prompt breast cancer awareness
Four hundred years ago, a young woman named Hendrickje Stoffels posed naked for her lover, Rembrandt.
In an exquisite painting titled Bathsheba at Her Bath, Rembrandt captured his model in broad, sumptuous brushstrokes. Unwittingly, he documented something sinister beneath her skin that would only be revealed centuries later.
Dutch masters Rubens and Rembrandt faithfully painted their models as they saw them. In doing so, they recorded dimpling, puckering, lumps and marks that, today, we recognise as signs of breast cancer.
This extraordinary fact has sparked a striking campaign for Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, launched for October’s Breast Cancer Month. The campaign message, Knowledge Beats Breast Cancer, celebrates the improvement in medical care in the 21st century while reminding modern women to ‘know your normal’ and be aware of any changes.
Kiwi breast cancer survivors have been photographed in similar poses to three masterpieces. At first glance, the photographic style tricks the viewer into thinking the pictures are from yesteryear. Look more closely, though, and you’ll see that these women’s scars tell of a happier outcome than they could’ve expected in Rembrandt’s day.
Shona, Anete and Kelly have received the best treatment modern medicine can offer: all three have undergone life-saving mastectomies, combined with chemotherapy and drugs. These 21st century women are looking forward to long and healthy lives.
Sadly, though, breast cancer still strikes women at a devastating rate, jumping to more than 3,300 diagnoses a year in the most recent statistics. Breast Cancer Foundation NZ’s chief executive Evangelia Henderson says, “When breast cancer is found early, survival rates are good. However, we’re still losing more than 600 Kiwis to breast cancer every year.
“Our vision of zero deaths from breast cancer can only be achieved when the cancer is found and treated earlier, and modern medicine continues to make treatment breakthroughs.”
Campaigns like this are designed to raise awareness amongst all Kiwi women aged 20 and over. “Be breast aware – know your normal, and report any changes to your doctor immediately,” says Henderson. “It’s good to remember that, unlike in the past, the knowledge we have these days can beat breast cancer.
“And knowledge will be key to beating those tough breast cancers that doctors still struggle to treat. Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, which relies entirely on donations, is funding various innovative research projects aimed at finding better, more targeted treatments.”