By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
A third of women (33%) do not check their breasts regularly for signs and symptoms of breast cancer and could be putting their lives at risk, according to new YouGov figures released today by Breast Cancer Care.
The survey of 2,126 UK adults also revealed that a fifth of women (20%) say their main reason for not doing so is because they don’t know how to check.
A fifth (19%) of women aged 45-54 who don’t check said it’s because they’re scared of what they might find, despite this being the age when breast cancer risk increases.
Furthermore, more than a tenth (11%) of women aged 55 and over who don’t check their breasts believe they don’t need to between NHS screening appointments, which should happen every three years from the age of 50.
Breast Cancer Care is urging women of all ages to get to know their breasts – ideally checking every 4-6 weeks – so they can spot any unusual changes quickly, whether they are attending screening or not, as early detection of breast cancer can save lives.
Mum-of-one Jodie Burdett, 32, from Billericay, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2015. She says:
“I very rarely checked my breasts – it wasn’t something I had ever thought about. It was a sudden pain in my right breast whilst lying in bed one evening which led me to press down on the area. That was when I felt a lump.
“Even though I was aware of the disease I had never researched the symptoms and didn’t know what to look out for. I just never thought I would get cancer – I’m an active, health and generally fit young mum!
“Once you have children you don’t always pay attention to looking after yourself but my advice to all ladies, young and old, would be to make the time to check themselves regularly. Breast cancer can happen to anyone, so it’s really important to be aware.”
The survey also showed that, while the majority (96%) of women know that a lump in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer, other signs and symptoms are less familiar:
· Two-fifths (39%4) did not know to look out for redness or a rash on the breast or nipple
· Over a quarter (28%) did not know a nipple becoming inverted can be a symptom
· Nearly a quarter (23%) did not identify nipple discharge as a symptom
Lindsay Partridge, 51, of Wokingham, found a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, aged 49. She says:
“I didn’t check my breasts regularly because I was scared of finding a lump. A close friend had recently been diagnosed, but I was still too scared to check. I found my lump by accident whilst lying on my bed. My mind went into overdrive and I didn’t sleep a wink. It was at that point I wished I had been checking regularly.”
Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care, says:
“This poll shows that, although women know to look out for a lump, many are still worried about how to check their breasts and don’t know what other symptoms to be aware of. There’s no correct way to check – whatever your age, it’s about looking at and feeling your breasts in a way that’s comfortable and convenient for you.”
The charity, in partnership with The Football Association, currently has a mobile roadshow touring England to raise awareness of signs and symptoms and encourage people to check their breasts regularly. It has also launched a Breast Awareness mobile app, an interactive quiz to help increase knowledge of signs and symptoms5.
For more information Visit breastcancercare.org.uk/roadshow or call Breast Cancer Care’s Nurses free on 0808 800 6000 for information and support from day one.
Breast checking advice
1) There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts. Checking should be convenient and comfortable for every individual. A rough guideline for checking is around every 4-6 weeks but ‘checking regularly’ means checking often enough to know your body and what’s normal for you.
2) Signs and symptoms to look out for include:
· a change in size and shape
· redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
· discharge (liquid) that comes from the nipple without squeezing
· a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
· a lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue
· a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like orange skin)
· your nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing its position or shape
· constant pain in your breast or your armpit.