• Just under a half of women aged 70 and over could name a symptom aside from a lump
• Latest annual figures show 503 women aged 70 and over died from breast cancer across Yorkshire and the Humber
Public Health England today launches a ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign aimed at women aged 70 and over to drive awareness of their risk of breast cancer and the lesser-known breast cancer symptoms to look out for.
Approximately 30% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer report a symptom other than a lump. However, research shows that when asked to name symptoms of breast cancer, only half of women over 70 (48%) could name a symptom aside from a lump.
Around 1300 women aged 70 and over across Yorkshire and the Humber are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. With the most recent annual figures (2013) showing that 890 women in Yorkshire and the Humber died of breast cancer, including 503 women aged 70 or over.
Dr Louise Merriman, the GP cancer lead at the Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Clinical Network said:
‘Breast cancer risk, like many cancers, increases with age and a third of women diagnosed with the disease are aged 70 and over. Research shows that older women are less aware of non-lump breast cancer signs and symptoms and are more likely to worry about wasting their doctor's time and so delay making an appointment.
‘Hopefully this campaign will increase awareness of breast cancer in this older group of women and encourage them to make an appointment with their GP to discuss their concerns or alternatively, self-refer into screening.’
Penny MacManus, Lead Surgeon for Hull and East Yorkshire Breast Service said:
‘Sadly, we still regularly see older women who have delayed going to their doctor with breast symptoms, either because they didn't think the symptoms might be serious, or because they didn't want to waste their families or doctors time with their concerns. Often these women are carers for husbands or other relatives, and they put their own health concerns to one side. The message we want to get across to older women is: don't assume you're too old to get breast cancer or too old for treatment. The earlier we can diagnose it, the more successful treatment is likely to be, even in the very elderly. Remember that a lump isn't the only sign of breast cancer and if you have noticed any persistent changes to your breast, then get checked out by your GP.’
Matthew Day, from PHE Yorkshire and the Humber and Cancer Lead for the Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Clinical Network said: ‘Every week around 25 women over 70 from our region are diagnosed with breast cancer. Spotting it earlier can make a real difference, so look out for any of these symptoms and if you notice any, get in touch with your GP.’
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in England, with around 41,200 women diagnosed every year. National figures show that around 9,500 women die from breast cancer each year and over half of these (5,400) are women aged 70 and over. This equates to around 15 women aged 70 and over dying from breast cancer in England every day.
Early diagnosis of breast cancer is crucial and means treatment is more likely to be successful. If breast cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage in women aged 70 and over, 93% will live for at least another five years. This figure drops to just 13% for those diagnosed at the most advanced stage.
The nationwide Be Clear on Cancer ‘breast cancer in women over 70’ campaign will launch on Monday 13 July and run for eight weeks. For more information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer please visit nhs.uk/breastcancer70