By Ninder Kaur
One in three women diagnosed with breast cancer each year are aged 70 and over.
The Founder of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, Pinky Lilani and Journalist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown are supporting Public Health England’s ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ breast cancer campaign aimed at women aged 70 and over.
The eight week campaign which coincides with Cancer Equality’s Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Month aims to drive awareness of the risk of breast cancer amongst this age group and to increase their knowledge of lesser-known breast cancer symptoms which could include:
- Changes to the skin of your breast
- Changes in the shape or size of your breast or nipple
- Nipple discharge
- Pain in your breast
- Any unusual or persistent changes to your breasts
Around 13,400 women aged 70 and over are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, accounting for a third of all breast cancer cases. 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.
Despite older women being at an increased risk of breast cancer, they are also more likely to delay going to their GP with breast cancer symptoms and for older Asian women there are often cultural, religious and language issues that can cause delay.
Pinky Lilani, CBE DL, Founder of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards says:
“We know there are cultural taboos and embarrassment associated with the discussion and education about breast cancer amongst older Asian women but the truth is as Asian women we need to talk about the risk and symptoms of breast cancer more openly to increase our understanding of the disease.
A lump isn’t the only symptom that is important to know about; other symptoms of breast cancer could also include changes to your breast shape, size, skin or nipple.
I want to encourage Asian women over 70 to pay attention to their breasts. If you notice any changes to your breasts make sure you tell your doctor straight away.”
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Journalist and Author says:
“Sadly everyone knows someone who has been touched by breast cancer and that’s why we as Asian women cannot afford to ignore the statistic – one in three women who get breast cancer are over 70. If you’re over 70 don’t assume you’re past it or dismiss any symptoms as a sign of ageing and most importantly don’t be afraid to tell your doctor.
I’d like to appeal to younger Asian women to engage older female members of their families in conversations about breast cancer to help detect the disease early so that more lives can be saved.”
Dr Ann Hoskins, Public Health England Deputy Director, Health and Wellbeing says:
“This campaign aims to target women aged 70 and over, as we know that many women of this age group are unaware of the risk breast cancer poses to them. They also tend to have lower knowledge of the symptoms of breast cancer, and are not necessarily looking at or feeling their breasts so are less likely to detect change.
“This campaign emphasises that a lump is not the only sign of breast cancer and women should tell their GP if they notice any changes to their breasts. Other possible signs of breast cancer include nipple changes and changes to the skin of the breast.”
The campaign first launched nationally in early 2014 and research shows that it successfully raised awareness that the risk of breast cancer increases with age. Promising results show a 25% increase in the number of breast cancers diagnosed in women aged 70 and over following an urgent GP referral for suspected breast cancer during the campaign period compared with the same period two years earlier.
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 are women aged 70 and over (5,400).This equates to around 15 women aged 70 and over dying from breast cancer in England every day.8
Debashis Ghosh, Consultant Breast & Oncoplastic Surgeon, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, says:
“I’ve performed surgery on women over the age of 70 and always tell women that breast cancer is more treatable if found early. 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.
As a surgeon, I’m delighted to be supporting the Be Clear on Cancer campaign because the earlier we can diagnose cancer, the more treatment options we can offer our patients.”
For more information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer please visit nhs.uk/breastcancer70.