A Hale healthcare assistant is one of the first to participate in a scheme to search for the signs of breast cancer in women under the age of 40.

The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment in Young Women (BCAN-RAY) trial is inspired by Sarah Harding who died of the disease around two years ago.

Harding, a member of girl group Girls Aloud, wanted to search for the signs of breast cancer in women under the age of 40 when this is much more treatable.

The BCAN-RAY trial, which is based across Greater Manchester, is set to do this by recruiting 1000 participants and putting them through a number of tests.

Catherine Craven-Howe, a Hale healthcare assistant and medical student at Liverpool University, is one of the first to participate in the scheme.

She attended an appointment which included a mammogram and a saliva sample to allow researchers to assess the risks.

Messenger Newspapers: Sarah HardingSarah Harding (Image: PA)

Ms Craven-Howe said: "Although I don’t have breast cancer and I don’t have a history of it in my family, I know how important research is.

"I hope my participation will help to devise a simple test to detect the likelihood of breast cancer for young women like me in the future."

The BCAN-RAY trial is supported by Cancer Research, Christie Charity and the Sarah Harding Breast Cancer Appeal, itself supported by Harding's family, friends and bandmates Cheryl Tweedy, Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle and Nicola Roberts.

Harding’s consultant, Dr Sacha Howell, who is leading the scheme, said: "There are too many young women like Sarah tragically dying from breast cancer and we need to find out how we can more accurately identify those in whom it will develop.

"Currently the only indicator we have is based on family history but this only helps predict one third of cases. While there is research available in the over 40s, this will be the first study in young women."

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email jack.tooth@newsquest.co.uk or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.