Actress Elizabeth Hurley says cancer awareness now ‘more vital than it’s ever been’

Elizabeth Hurley visits SiriusXM Studios.

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Actress, model, businesswoman and philanthropist, Elizabeth Hurley, told CNBC that the Covid-19 pandemic has been an “incredibly challenging” time for cancer patients.

“I think because of the pandemic, because of the last 18 months, it’s been very hard for some of us to think about any health issues apart from Covid, obviously. We’ve all been worried about getting vaccines, we’ve all been worried about keeping our loved ones safe, some of us have lost people, it’s been a really challenging time for everyone,” Hurley said.

“But it’s been an incredibly challenging time for people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer or for people who are worried about their own health and would like to be checked for cancer-related illnesses. So, if anything, this World Cancer Day this year in 2022 is more vital than it’s ever been.”

Hurley was speaking to “CNBC Meets” in her role as global ambassador for The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Campaign, ahead of World Cancer Day on Feb. 4.

She told CNBC that raising awareness of self-checking your breasts, and breast health in general was crucial. Both women and men can be diagnosed with breast cancer which has now overtaken lung cancer as the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world.

The star of movies and TV shows including “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” “Gossip Girl,” “The Royals” and Marvel’s “Runaways” has been helping to raise funds and awareness for the campaign since 1995. She said that the campaign had resonated with her personally after losing her grandmother to breast cancer.

“She found a lump herself, like many women do. She was too scared and too embarrassed to tell her doctor for some time, more than a year, and by that time the cancer had spread, and in spite of a mastectomy, it had spread to her liver and it was too late to save my grandmother,” she said.

“So, part of our messaging has always been ‘early detection saves lives.’ We know that if breast cancer is caught early there’s an extremely strong chance of survival, but the key words are catching it early.”

Hurley said checking your breasts regularly was “absolutely vital”. “Checking them once a month so that you know how your breasts feel, so that if you notice a difference you can go to your doctor and talk to him or her about that and then if there is something wrong it’ll be found early,” she said.

October this year will mark the 30th anniversary since the late Evelyn H. Lauder co-created the now globally recognized pink ribbon symbol for breast cancer and founded the campaign with its mission “to create a breast cancer-free world for all.”

The Breast Cancer Campaign and The Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation have since provided over $108 million toward “global research, education and medical services.”

Lauder also founded the non-profit Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993. Hurley said that she had seen vast changes since she had become involved.

“People didn’t talk about breast cancer back then,” she said.

“That landscape has changed unbelievably in the 27 years that I’ve been with the campaign. People now are talking about breast cancer. They’re talking about fundraising, they’re talking about treatments, they’re talking about diagnosis, they’re talking about aftercare if you’ve been diagnosed, how should people be treated, what can we do to help?”

Covid lockdowns

The star, who established her eponymous luxury beachwear label in 2005, also told CNBC that balancing her family, career and charity commitments had been difficult at times.

“I think when I was a younger mother with a younger child the balancing act was a great deal more difficult, as everybody knows who’s got young kids who are still being ferried to and from school and are still having their baths run for them and having their pajamas laid out. You know, that’s a challenge in any woman’s life or any parent’s life,” she said.

“It was a juggling act, but now, you know my son’s 19 and I obviously don’t have to lay his pajamas out for him anymore or run his bath, so you know I’m enjoying much more now a real return to business, to making movies.”

Hurley said that the coronavirus lockdowns had been an interesting experience, and a creative time for her.

“I’ve been very lucky that during lockdown, since the first lockdown, I’ve made three or four movies and a TV pilot and I’ve written my first script, and to me it’s actually become a very creatively productive time,” she said.

“And I really think in some way that even though lockdown was such a terrible time for so many of us, in some ways mentally, it was also quite good for some of us, because it made us step back, get off the treadmill and reconnect with ourselves, with our families, even though we were cooped up and it was so tough.”

She said that she has continued with some of the changes she made during the pandemic.

“I choose not to go out very much now. I choose to see select people in quite safe environments now, in their houses or in my house, and I’m very happy with that. In fact, I’m thrilled with that, and I feel that I’m actually much closer to certain people, and the people that I haven’t seen so much I don’t miss, sorry.”

Asked if she was hopeful that we will see a cancer-free world one day, Hurley told CNBC: “I truly believe, from the breast cancer point of view, that the only thing standing between today, when women are dying of breast cancer and it’s the most diagnosed cancer in the world, and a day where people are no longer dying from breast cancer, the thing standing in the way of that is lack of funding.”

“We need to raise more money, and in the meantime, people need to look after themselves and self-check and go to their doctor if they’re worried,” she said.