Elizabeth Hurley opens up about her fight to end breast cancer: 'Breast cancer doesn't discriminate'

Gibson Johns, AOL.com

Elizabeth Hurley is opening up about her decades-long mission to find a cure for breast cancer.

The actress has been working with Estee Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Campaign since the early '90s, when she lost her grandmother to the disease, and she's brightening the spotlight on the devastating cancer once again for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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"Breast cancer doesn't discriminate," she told AOL Entertainment over the phone this month. "It doesn't just happen in October -- it happens 365 days of the year, no matter where you come from. It'll go for you at any time. It's a year-round thing for us, but October is the month where we're particularly vocal about it. Women are being diagnosed in America every two minutes! 1 in 8 women will still be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Regardless of great progress, it's still a problem."

Indeed, there is still a long way to go -- and Hurley says the key to finding a cure could be as simple as simple "needing more funding -- and, for that reason, the "Royals" actress is careful to get too excited about the progress that's been made over the last 25 years. That being said, there's no denying that a lot of positive change has happened.

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Thinking back to her knowledge of the disease when her grandmother initially revealed she had breast cancer, Hurley calls the difference between now and then "extraordinary."

"We didn't know anything about breast cancer when my grandmother was diagnosed," Hurley explained. "In fact, she didn't even tell us she'd been diagnosed initially. She found the lump herself, and it took her over a year to go to the doctor because she was that scared. She didn't discuss her treatment with us, and we didn't really know anything."

It's that exact fear that Hurley wants to encourage women to overcome, so that they can willfully either check themselves or go to a doctor for an examination. One thing that encourages women to get checked is when well-known women share their own stories.

Most recently, "Veep" star Julia Louis-Drefyus revealed that she had ben diagnosed with breast cancer, making her that 1 in 8 women who receives such a diagnosis in their lifetime.

"I personally really commend someone like her who had the courage to speak about her personal health issues publicly," Hurley said to us. "It's not a choice everyone can make, but I believe that when it happens, it does inspire women around the world to check their own breasts more regularly. It also helps people know that they're not alone and that people are there for you. You don't need to keep it hidden in secret."

Famous women who have battled breast cancer:

Another way to spread awareness is simply by starting a conversation, which Hurley did recently when she surprised several Transatlantic Delta flights by handing out pink ribbons and hearing passengers' emotional stories about how breast cancer has affected either them personally or their loved ones.

It's that pink ribbon that, in Hurley's mind, perfectly represents the progress that has been made around the world.

"When I started working for the Breast Cancer Campaign, the pink ribbon had only just been invented, and no one was talking about breast cancer," she remembered. "Now, it's a ubiquitous sign of hope around the world that reminds women that research is being done on their behalf." 

"Mortality rates have decreased by 38 percent since the late '80s," she continued. "Treatments are getting better, and now we feel 25 years on that awareness is very high, so now is the time to go in and end this thing. Let's put an end to breast cancer."

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