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Breast cancer patient blasts Facebook for removing awareness-raising image

A terminally ill breast cancer patient was “disgusted” Facebook removed an image she posted to help raise awareness of the disease.

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Rowena Kincaid, 40, posted an image showing a rash around her nipple to draw people’s attention to the fact that breast cancer may have symptoms other than a lump.

Over 72,000 people saw Rowena’s image within the first two hours, but when she logged back onto the site later the same day she received a notification to say it had been automatically taken down due to Facebook’s anti-nudity policy.

Rowena, from Cardiff, has secondary stage-four breast cancer and has no existing treatment options available to her. Her Facebook page, Before I Kick The Bucket, has over 10,000 followers and she has also made a documentary for the BBC to raise awareness of cancer symptoms.

“It doesn’t see what the reason behind it is, it’s just automatic,” Rowena wrote on her Facebook page. “It can’t see that the picture I posted earlier, may actually save lives. I’m obviously totally gutted, as it took a lot to share my picture with you, because I’m so body conscious, and fretted about sharing at all. (sic)”

Not to be deterred by Facebook’s move, Rowena posted a new version with a smiley face covering the nipple and advice on what to look for: “What you are looking at is a rash on the chest, around an imaginary nipple. In my case it is definitely cancer. In this example it’s also quite severe. Breast cancer can present itself in this way — not necessarily around the nipple, but anywhere in the chest or breast area. It may also start small and look like nothing, but any rash on the breast or chest that doesn’t go away, or seems to be growing should be investigated.”

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Before she was first diagnosed in 2009, at the age of 33, Rowena wasn’t familiar with some of the signs of breast cancer, which include inverted nipples, a rash and puckering. She was diagnosed with triple negative cancer, which affects approximately one in five people with breast cancer and is resistant to hormone therapy.

Rowena was told she was cancer free after gruelling chemotherapy but in 2013 the cancer returned and she was given six months to live. She’s defied doctors’ predictions but her health is now deteriorating and she’s having radiotherapy to prolong her life.

“I’m officially on my last treatment option. I’ve exhausted all chemos available to me,” she said. “There is no more that can help me when cancer works out how to resist this chemo I’m on, and takes over again.”

Rowena told The Independent that it was “disgusting” that Facebook had removed a photograph that had the potential to save lives. “Posting that photograph was the bravest thing I’ve done,” she said. “It’s so personal; I was petrified. The fact is it is a shot of a human body part with a disease. If I had cancer in my big toe and had posted a picture to show what it looked like would they take that down?”

After “investigating” Facebook has restored Rowena’s original image to her page.

For more advice on detecting breast cancer visit Cancer Research UK.

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