Cancer advice sports a tint and perm

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The Independent Online
Hairdressers have always been confidants, beauty advisers and an inexhaustible fund of knowledge. But 12 women in Merseyside now advise their customers on breast cancer screening between the perms and tints, writes Glenda Cooper.

The women who form "Hairdressers for Health" inform their customers about local breast screening facilities, what they can expect from the check-up and offer reassurance.

It has proved a massive success. Over a 14-week period each hairdresser spoke to 546 women and handed out 1,800 leaflets. Hairdressers for Health has been entered for the 1995 Regional Health Challenge awards in the North-west with the possibility of winning the top prize of pounds 10,000.

Discussing scans and self-inspection among root-growth and highlights may seem unusual, but Sarah Diggle, the health promotions manager at St Helens and Knowsley Community Health NHS Trust says hairdressing salons are the ideal place to contact women who have been traditionally difficult to target.

She said: "We're looking at women over 50, who may not use health services regularly, who can be encouraged to use a mobile unit."

Maxine Murphy, manager of Maximillions salon in Kirkby, said: "Hairdressers can take the more personal approach. You get to know clients personally and they tell you all their health problems openly."

Joan Husbands, manager of Eileen's Hairdressers, agreed: "You couldn't stop everyone talking about it. Someone would start and then everyone else would join in.

"It did a lot of good for women who were scared about going for the screening. Everyone was very honest. Women who had had their breasts off would tell you and it became like a self-help group."