St Agatha (feast day 5th February) has always been a popular saint among Christians. She was an early Christian saint and martyr. Agatha dedicated her life to God and resisted any men who wanted to marry her or have sex with her. A rich suitor – offended by her rejection – had her tortured to death, including having her breasts cut off.
In the somewhat macabre fashion of saints being depicted showing the instruments of their death, Agatha is often portrayed carrying her amputated breasts on a plate. She is the patron saint of (amongst other things) bakers and bell-makers, possibly because her severed breasts were mistaken for or likened to loaves of bread and bells.
More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients, and become a saintly companion to stand alongside modern celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Kathy Bates, Sharon Osbourne and Christina Applegate who have experienced a double mastectomy, offering solidarity and reassurance to women facing radical breast surgery.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. Around 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and around 12,000 women die of the disease each year.
Dr Bex Lewis, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, has written a very helpful and honest blog about her experiences with breast cancer. We recommend it.
Read more about the Breast Cancer campaign and how to be breast aware (remember it can affect men too) at http://www.breastcancercampaign.org/