The NHS is launching a new ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ public awareness campaign highlighting the fact that the older you get, your chances of getting breast cancer increase, with one third of women diagnosed with the disease each year being aged 70 or over.
Surprisingly, two thirds of women aged 70 and over (67 per cent) wrongly think women of all ages are equally likely to get breast cancer, when in fact a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases with age.
The ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign also encourages Asian women to know the signs and symptoms, talk to their daughters or daughter-in-laws and visit their doctor if they spot any changes to their breasts.
With many women only on the lookout for a lump in the breast, other signs of the disease are often overlooked. The campaign pushes women to identify several lesser-known but equally important signs of the disease, including pain in the breast or armpit and changes to the nipples, size or shape of the breasts.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Regional Director at Public Health England, said: “Research shows that women aged over 70 have low symptom awareness and are more likely to delay presenting to their GP with breast cancer, which could ultimately affect their chance of survival.
“Added to this are the cultural taboos and embarrassment that are specifically associated with the discussion and education about breast cancer amongst older Asian women.
“Women cannot afford to ignore the statistics – one in three women who get breast cancer are over 70, so don’t assume you’re past it or dismiss any symptoms as a sign of ageing and most importantly don’t be afraid to talk to your GP.”
The campaign is urging daughters to engage older female members of their families in conversations about cancer to help detect the disease. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival. Therefore, Asian women are encouraged to talk about the issue.
The campaign has received celebrity support, with actress Meera Syal featuring in an infomercial designed for Asian communities. Speaking on her role in the project, Meera says:
“Breast cancer is something which is hardly discussed amongst Asian women. It comes down to taboos and a sense of embarrassment. I really want to help get the message out there that breast cancer is a very real and relevant disease amongst Asians.
“My own mother suffered from it and fortunately she spotted it early and like most women who do these days she survived.
“This was due to her swift action in visiting her GP as soon as she noticed changes in her body.
“It goes to show how quick responses can influence a matter of life and death.”