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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Know Your Lemons app is saving lives

Know Your Lemons app

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer doesn’t know what day it is, though, and continues to be a leading cause of death for women around the world. Early detection is so important, as it can catch cancer early, for less aggressive treatment methods and a better chance of positive outcomes. With that in mind, let me introduce you to the only global charity focused on early detection: The Know Your Lemons Foundation. One way they are saving lives is through the Know Your Lemons app.

I had the opportunity to interview Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont, co-founder and CEO of Know Your Lemons. Below is our conversation about the charity, the innovative Know Your Lemons app, breast health education, and more.

Interview with Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont, Know Your Lemons founder

Thank you for taking the time for this interview about the Know Your Lemons App, Corrine!

Please tell us a bit about the Know Your Lemons Foundation

I founded this charity after losing both of my grandmothers and a close friend to breast cancer. At the time, there were many breast cancer charities, but none of them focused exclusively on breast health education and served a global audience.

Six years later, we’re in 32 languages, have volunteer educators in 57 countries, and have reached 1.5 billion online. Today we are still the only global nonprofit with the sole purpose of improving early detection to save lives from breast cancer through creative education.

What makes the Know Your Lemons App so groundbreaking?

There is actually a lot of information to know when it comes to breast health. Learning what each part of the breast feels like, for example, is key to being confident to do a self-exam. Getting reminders, doing a risk assessment to know which screening recommendations are right for you, are just some of the tools our app has.

What is unique is that our app is customized to your body and your risk factors to make sure you are getting the information and recommendations that are relevant to your specific needs. And if you find something suspicious, it guides you step-by-step on how to discuss it with your doctor and what tests are available to you. It’s already saved lives, and could make a massive difference for early detection if more people discover our app.

The other thing is that it includes a period tracker that doesn’t collect any data. The period tracker actually is part of knowing when to do a self-exam, and it’s got a fun interface that people really enjoy.

Who is the app designed for?

The app works for all genders, any age. It currently includes screening recommendations for the USA, Canada, UK, France, and Bahamas. (Every country has their own screening recommendations!) It’s in English and French, and we are expanding soon to more countries and languages.

A screening plan is just one part of early detection. Knowing the 12 symptoms, getting reminders, learning your breast cycle—that works for everyone no matter where you live so it’s a pretty universal app, and of course it’s free.

Who designed the app and what did that process look like?

My background is that I’m a designer, with a PhD in how to best communicate health messages (specifically breast cancer) with a global audience. That’s something that makes us unique, our design-led approach to communicating with visuals.

I developed a way of using lemons as a visual substitute for breasts to overcome taboo and fear associated with breasts and cancer, that means we can educate in situations and with people who previously had no access to the information. I took that knowledge and applied it to designing an experience that’s engaging and beautiful and initiates conversations in a way that’s not been possible before.

All of this was part of the app design. It’s a very user-centered process. I test it with users from around the world often and get feedback that we integrate into new updates. It was first launched in 2018.

We learned a lot of lessons from the first two years, and have completely rebuilt it so it can scale easily. It’s exciting.

What is the feedback so far for the Know Your Lemons app?

The best feedback we have are from patients who say the app saved their life. I don’t think there is anything better than a user review like that!

This year we were also named the Top 5 Health and Fitness app by the Webby Awards (like the Oscars of the Internet). It’s a very competitive category, and we were named alongside Apple Fitness and Nike, which shows how much our app stands out among those with large budgets and entire design teams.

We’ve received this category award TWICE. It’s humbling honestly to see this working as we hoped—saving lives and making breast health a better experience for everyone, but also just being seen as a great app that’s worthy of being on your phone.

When it comes to breast health education, how can women take a proactive approach?

We are not taught about breast health in school, so it leaves us with very little to go on in terms of understanding what we don’t know. It’s amazing to think that simply downloading an app can change that.

The app helps set up a breast health routine for self-exams and mammograms and helps you understand the risk factors that are involved. The fact that surprises people the most is that not having a family history of breast cancer still means you are at risk. 85% of those diagnosed with breast cancer have NO family history, and are the first in their family to be diagnosed. It just shows that it’s important for everyone to be proactive and set up a breast health routine.

What does breast cancer/prevention mean to you personally?

Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the world, and it’s making a devastating impact, especially on families. When breast cancer is found in the earliest stage, the survival rate in the USA is 99%. In developing countries, however, most women are not diagnosed in early stages.

In Nigeria where we do a lot of education, half of women are diagnosed at Stage 4, when it is no longer curable. Half of women who die from breast cancer are under the age of 50. For every 100 women that die in that age group, it produces 210 maternal orphans. And this isn’t limited to Nigeria; it’s wide-spread.

12 possible symptoms of breast cancer. Photo via Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont.

Here’s what else Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont wants you to know

Sometimes it can feel like the problem is too big to do something useful to help. But actually there are some simple ways people can get involved with the mission to save lives.

The easiest way is to download the app and educate yourself. Then, share what you’ve learned with others.

You can do this through following us on social media and sharing posts that you find interesting. We have had many women say the reason why they found their breast cancer in time was because of a friend sharing a picture of our 12 signs of breast cancer image [see image above] on social media.

The third is to help us expand our work through donations. Simply setting up a monthly donation can help us do this work year-round, even if it’s a small amount. It helps pay for things like training volunteer educators, providing materials, translating into new languages, and of course the app!

There are also lots of volunteer opportunities, and we are always looking for people with special skills who want to contribute to help with the mission. When we all pull together, we can change the picture of breast cancer for good!

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Concluding thoughts

Thank you for being here today Corrine to talk about the Know Your Lemons app. I commend you and your team for continuing to educate about breast cancer, early detection, and breast health.

The Know Your Lemons Foundation operates 24/7, not just for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please share this post to help others learn about the life-saving app and the foundation behind it.

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