To all Sarah's fans, please read this letter from Cheryl, Kimberley, Nadine and Nicola about how a pioneering cancer research project is helping to make Sarah's final wish come true...

When Sarah fell ill, she was determined to do anything she possibly could to make sure other young women would not have to go through what she was going through. With no family history of breast cancer, and being so young, Sarah’s diagnosis came as a terrible shock – not only to herself, but to us, her family, friends and her fans too.

One year ago, we launched the Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Appeal in memory of our beloved Sarah. We began work to raise funds for a pioneering cancer research project led by The Christie Charity and The Christie hospital who cared for Sarah throughout her illness.

The BCAN-RAY (Breast Cancer Risk Assessment in Young Women) project was set up following Sarah’s parting wish to find new ways to spot the signs of the disease earlier and stop it cutting lives like hers short. 

Dr Sacha Howell looked after Sarah at The Christie hospital in Manchester and says: “Sarah was a real character and a force of nature. She faced her cancer diagnosis with courage and dignity. She used to make me laugh as she loved shoes and always used to check what shoes I was wearing when I visited her. They’d either get a thumbs up or a thumbs down!

“Even when she was really unwell she talked to me about wanting to do something that would help young women like her in the future. It’s thanks to her vision and that of the other girls in the band, that we have this study that will fulfil Sarah’s dying wish to find new ways to spot the signs of the disease earlier and stop it cutting lives like hers short.”

Every day more than 150 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK – that’s almost 55,000 a year, and nearly a fifth of all cases are women who are under 50.

Currently, there is no routine screening programme for early breast cancer in younger women who don’t have a family history of the disease, despite it being the most common cause of death in women aged 30 to 55 years.

The study Sarah inspired was launched in April 2023 and is the first of its kind and is funded by donations from the public to The Christie Charity and Cancer Research UK. Called BCAN-RAY (Breast Cancer Risk Assessment in Young Women), researchers hope that findings from this study will enable all women to have a risk assessment for breast cancer when they reach the age of 30. Those women identified as high risk could then have access to early screening and opportunities for prevention, to reduce the chances of them developing and potentially dying from the disease.

Phase 1 of BCAN-RAY was funded through various fundraising activities including a 5km Race for Life in London’s Hyde Park and the Primrose Ball we threw in Sarah’s honour. These events and more have raised more than £1m to date.

Early results from Phase 1 of the study have been encouraging with almost 400 women signed up; 200 of these have had a risk assessment to gauge their likelihood of developing breast cancer and of these, 24 have been identified as at increased risk and have started screening immediately.

That’s 24 families that haven’t had to experience the pain and sorrow Sarah and her family experienced. These 24 women had no history of breast cancer in their family and had no reason to believe they might develop breast cancer. Thanks to the study and to Sarah’s determination for research, they can now take preventative measures to reduce their risk of developing the disease.

The darkest nights produce the brightest stars

We are pleased to announce it is now time to move onto Phase 2 of the research. This will be entirely funded through various behind-the-scenes initiatives in place during this tour, which means Dr Sacha Howell’s research and Sarah’s wish will be able to move forward. 

But there is still so much more we want to achieve in Sarah’s name to keep her legacy alive and to give young women in the future the best possible chance of survival.

Please donate to the Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Appeal below:

Thank you!

Cheryl, Kimberley, Nadine and Nicola

The study is supported by The Christie Charity, Cancer Research UK, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, The University of Manchester, the University of Cambridge, University College London Alliance for Cancer Early Detection, The Shine Bright Foundation and the Manchester Cancer Research Centre.

To support the work of The Christie Charity, please go to Donate today or ring 0161 446 3988.

The Christie Charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS is able to fund. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education, and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.

You can also find out more about The Christie Charity's work by signing up to our emails below.

Charity Email Sign Up

Last updated: May 2024