A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE Scots lottery winner is donating £750,000 to a new breast cancer campaign aimed at detecting the disease early and improving survival rates.
Euromillions winner Chris Weir, who picked up a record-breaking £161 million in 2011 along with husband Colin, has pledged £250,000 a year for the next three years after becoming Breast Cancer Care Scotland's first breast health awareness ambassador.
Mrs Weir, a retired psychiatric nurse from Largs, has been recruited for her experience in working with people suffering mental illness.
Mrs Weir said: "In my career, I saw at first-hand the challenges many people are confronted by when accessing and dealing with information that the rest of us take for granted."
She said that, for example, people with learning difficulties faced barriers such as understanding breast awareness messages, issues around informed consent or just being overlooked.
She added: "Breast cancer doesn't discriminate. When Breast Cancer Care Scotland talked to me about the low survival rates here and I realised that this situation was even worse for hard-to-reach groups, I immediately agreed to support their campaign."
The new campaign, called B-Aware, has been developed in response to research showing that the breast cancer incidence rate in Scotland has increased by 14% in the past decade, while cancer survival rates in Scotland are one of the lowest in Europe.
Every year 4500 women in Scotland are diagnosed with breast cancer and 1000 Scottish women die from the disease.
The charity will create a team of trained volunteers called Team B-Aware, recruited from around Scotland, to work on the campaign over the next three years.
The volunteers will focus on typically hard-to-reach groups in their local communities for whom early detection rates tend to be poorer.
These include women and men with learning difficulties, learning disabilities, mental health issues and people from black and ethnic minority and socially disadvantaged communities.
It is hoped that the programme will encourage more people to come forward as soon as they have a symptom or suspect something is wrong.
Jane Hinnrichs, chairwoman of trustees at Breast Cancer Care Scotland, said: "We know that early detection is essential in ensuring a successful outcome for women and men with breast cancer. We also know that for some sections of the Scottish community, we aren't getting that message through to them.
"We have wanted to tackle this for some time and the donation from Chris means we can now get this life-changing project off the ground and start to save lives.
"Just as important to us is that Chris is joining us as our first breast health awareness ambassador in Scotland for the duration of the campaign. With over 30 years' experience as a mental health specialist, her knowledge of working with hard-to-reach groups will greatly assist this vital project."
Health Secretary Alex Neil added: "We know that the earlier cancer is detected and treated, the better the chances of survival.
"That is why it is so important that we spread the breast awareness message and help people to spot the signs and symptoms - not only in themselves, but in others too.
"We welcome and support the work of Breast Cancer Care's B-Aware Team, who will raise awareness of cancer in all our communities."