'I had nobody to support me': Breast cancer survivor says stigma left her all alone

  • Watch: ITV West Country's Sabet Choudhury and Louisa Britton started by asking Eila Ashman about her experience with breast cancer

A woman who had breast cancer has spoken out about how unsupported people from ethnic minority communities can feel after being diagnosed with the disease.

Eila Ashman, from Stroud, said her friends "disappeared" after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015.

She has now recovered and has set up a charity to raise awareness of the disease within black and ethnic minority communities.

"I know a lot of people from Kenya, as that is where I was born. I did tell quite a few people, but there is still a stigma," she said. "Nobody came to see me."

She added: "That was the most devastating thing because I had two teenage daughters, but I had nobody to support me."

Eila said she set up the Mama Melissa Foundation to encourage more people from ethnic minority communities to speak openly about the disease.

"I set it up to improve awareness because, for the majority of East African women, their awareness is what is important," she said.

"They don't even know about preventative treatments, simple things like breast self-diagnosis," she added.

Eila said she set up the Mama Melissa Foundation to encourage women to speak openly about cancer. Credit: Eila Ashman

She has recently partnered up with her surgeon, Mr Sherif Wilson, to raise money to buy a mammogram for a rural village in Kenya.

Mr Wilson, who is Lead Clinician in Breast Reconstruction at North Bristol NHS, said that people from ethnic minority communities are often diagnosed with more advanced breast cancers.

"Unfortunately, especially in African and Asian communities, the presentation is usually late, and not only is the presentation late, but the treatment can also be quite late," he said.

He said it is "worrying" that people from ethnic minority communities feel unable to approach their doctor earlier.

"We would like to basically get the point across to all of this community, to come across early for us. We will then be able to diagnose people earlier and treat people earlier," he said.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...