- Breast awareness promotion in the East London
- YouGov poll shows women with symptoms of breast cancer can wait too long before seeking an initial appointment with their GP
Breast awareness events in Hackney and Tower Hamlets Cancerkin’s East London team have been busy promoting breast health and awareness to local community groups in the East London area. On 17 April, we were invited to deliver a breast awareness talk to a parent’s group at Marion Richardson Primary School, Tower Hamlets. The presentation was received positively by the diverse audience who contributed their experiences and agreed on the importance of promoting the awareness message within their community.
On 21 April, LinkAge Plus and Osmani Trust collaborated to organise the Health & Housing Focused Event for over 50s in Hackney. The Cancerkin stall provided an opportunity for local older people in the area to learn more about the importance of breast health and to have questions regarding the national breast screening programme answered. The importance of this message for older women is especially vital with 80% of breast cancer cases in the UK now affecting those aged 50 or over.
Many thanks to Rumana Begum and Dave Barnard for facilitating these engaging talks.
1 in 5 women delay seeing a doctor a month after identifying breast cancer symptoms Research by YouGov has shown that a fifth of women who were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer waited a month or longer before seeking an appointment with their GP, after spotting a potential sign or symptom. The findings also showed 1 in 20 of those women had waited up to 6 months before seeking an appointment with a healthcare professional. These delays can significantly reduce their chances of survival.
The study also considered the reasons behind these delays. Nearly a third of women who waited more than a month before going to their GP believed their symptoms were not a concern and one in five were too scared to see their doctor because of the fear that they might be diagnosed with cancer. A further 8% of women surveyed delayed going to a healthcare professional because they did not want to be a nuisance.
Approximately 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, with 65% of cases identified through symptoms. Of the 409 participants of the survey, 403 were women, and 17% of those who were diagnosed delayed visiting their doctor after noticing a symptom. This translates to 6000 women every year in the UK. Moreover, 1 in 10 of the women surveyed did not find a lump – the most typical indicator of breast cancer – but less common symptoms such as puckering or dimpling of the skin or a rash on the breast. In some cases these atypical signs may indicate a less common and more aggressive subtype of the disease known as inflammatory breast cancer, which accounts for 1 – 4% of all cases.
Samia al Qadhi, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, commented, “There have been many awareness raising campaigns around breast cancer symptoms, but our survey suggests that the job still isn’t done. The sooner a cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is likely to be, so it is extremely concerning that some women are waiting more than six months to visit their GP after finding a breast symptom. We know how scary it can be to find a breast change, but we want to reassure women that an early diagnosis of breast cancer can mean simpler and more effective treatment. We are urging women of any age to get to know their body by looking at and feeling their breasts regularly, there’s no right or wrong way, and if they find any unusual changes for them to not put off visiting their GP.”
Macmillan Cancer Support Director of Policy and Research, Dr Fran Woodward, highlighted the importance of early diagnosis, “UK cancer survival rates currently trail behind much of Europe. If we are serious about bridging this gap we need to address issues such as early diagnosis as a matter of urgency. As well as helping people to recognise cancer symptoms, we must also support GPs to make timely referrals and ensure people are tested as quickly as possible.”
Checking your breasts regularly can be vital to an early diagnosis of breast cancer, which can significantly increase your chances of survival. Men can get breast cancer too (though it is rare with only 400 men diagnosed with the disease in the UK annually) so it is important for both sexes to be vigilant.
To stay breast aware follow these steps:
- Get to know your breasts and know what is normal for you by looking for changes.
- Feel your breasts for any changes (this includes the armpit and upper chest as there is breast tissue in these areas)
- Know what changes to look for (see signs and symptoms below)
- Do not hesitate to see your GP if you notice any changes
- Attend breast screening appointments if you are over the age of 50 (though some women may be called at 47 as part of a trial extension of the programme).
If you are over the age of 70 you may stop receiving screening invitations but you are still eligible and can arrange an appointment with your local screening unit.
Signs and symptoms to look for:
- Lumping or thickening of the breast tissue
- Constant pain of the breast or armpit
- One breast becoming bigger in size compared to the other
- Puckering or dimpling of the skin
- Nipples changing size, position or becoming inverted (turned inside)
- Nipples developing a rash, crusting or producing discharge (bodily fluid)
- Swelling that appears under the armpit or around the collarbone
For more information on breast awareness please see Cancerkin’s Being Breast Aware booklet.