Mastectomy support group tells of ‘constant battle’ to keep Facebook page open

The founder of a Facebook support group for people who have undergone mastectomies said she faces a “constant battle” with the social network to keep it open.

Jay Walker, who runs the Mastectomy Network page, said several images have been taken down from the website, despite mastectomy photos being within Facebook’s community guidelines.

“We regularly have images removed for containing ‘nudity or sexual activity’, despite mastectomy images being included within the community standards,” Ms Walker, a compliance officer from Manchester, told the PA news agency.

She noted that instances of photos being removed have taken place in October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“We have been warned that if we continue to post images that are against community standards, the support group and page will be restricted or permanently deleted,” she said.

Day Nineteen of ‘Become Visible’ and we have had another image removed from Instagram. Mastectomy images are not…

Posted by Mastectomy Network on Monday, October 19, 2020

Ms Walker, 41, who has run the Mastectomy Network Facebook and Instagram pages for four years, said the restrictions have made it harder for people to find the group using the site’s search function.

She told PA: “We have tested this with several Facebook profiles that have never previously searched for or visited Mastectomy Network, using the same generic search terms … and the group is no longer shown in the search results.

“The public page posts that used to reach thousands now barely reaches 100 people.

“This makes it near impossible for us to reach women, as we are banned from advertising our group because our ‘logo and service depicts nudity or sexual activity’.

“It’s always extremely frustrating when this happens, but now is impacting how we function and help women … It’s such a constant battle and a waste of time and energy that could be used towards helping people.”

Mastectomy Network founder Jay Walker (Jay Walker/PA)

Ms Walker said the aim of the support group is to “normalise” the surgery following her own planned mastectomy four years ago.

She had a preventative mastectomy due to a suspected genetic abnormality and thus was not permitted to post in breast cancer support groups.

Ms Walker has since brought people who have undergone the surgery together, claiming “anyone who’s had a mastectomy is welcome”.

Amanda Chard, 42, from Winchester, Hampshire, sent her own mastectomy photos to be posted on the group after undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

“It is so, so important that women are able to see these images, especially at a time when they are facing surgery themselves and perhaps have very difficult choices to make,” she told PA.

“Surely it’s right that women like me should be able to share these experiences to bring hope, reassurance and knowledge to others to help them make their own informed decisions about breast surgery without the fear of being branded some kind of sexual deviant by the social media giants?”

(Amanda Chard/Mastectomy Network/PA)

Facebook has said it does allow photos of people’s breasts post-mastectomy, as well as in the context of breastfeeding, protest, birth, and post-birth, stating that the social network’s nudity policies have become more nuanced over time.

A spokeswoman said: “Jay’s profile shouldn’t have been suspended, and we have restored the posts that were removed – this was a mistake and we’re sorry for any upset this has caused.

“Whilst adult nudity isn’t allowed on Facebook, we make exceptions for posts which are clearly intended as medical or educational. This can include images of post-mastectomy scarring.”

Ms Walker said she would like to create a website forum for the support group, but that the ability to see public profiles on Facebook makes it a safer and more secure place to post.

“Facebook could fast-forward the conversation within years, and completely de-sexualise mastectomies,” Ms Walker said.

“It just reinforces that belief that breasts are scary or sexual … they’re perpetuating that stereotype.”

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