Breast cancer campaign targets older women

editorial image

Northamptonshire NHS and the county council are supporting the new NHS breast cancer in women over 70 campaign.

The campaign, which is running until Sunday, March 16, across England, aims to raise awareness of breast cancer symptoms in women aged 70 and over, with the main message being: one in three women who gets breast cancer is over 70 so don’t assume you’re past it. The campaign also 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.

Dr Peter Wilczynski, of NHS Corby Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Breast cancer survival is lower in women aged over 70 than in younger women. Research shows that older women have low knowledge of non-lump breast cancer symptoms and are more likely to delay presenting to their GP with breast cancer. They might be embarrassed, afraid of treatment or dismissive of symptoms as a sign of ageing.”

Dr Darin Seiger, also of NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “A lump is not the only sign of breast cancer. Possible other signs include a lump in the armpit, nipple changes, changes to the skin of the breast, changes in the shape or size of the breast and pain in the breast or armpit. If a woman has any of these symptoms, she should go and see her doctor straight away.”

Cllr Robin Brown said: “There’s nothing to be embarrassed or scared about - the key thing to remember is that the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival. More than 90 per cent of all women diagnosed with the earliest stage of breast cancer survive their disease for at least five years.”

About 41,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in England; of these about 13,500 are aged 70 and over. Breast cancer accounts for around 5,400 deaths in women in this age group in England annually. In 2011, 168 over 70s were diagnosed with breast cancer in Northamptonshire and 54 people died.

As part of this national campaign, adverts will appear on TV and in national newspapers and women’s magazines. Celebrity advocates include actress Barbara Windsor. She said: “I met a lot of women affected by breast cancer when I was preparing for Peggy Mitchell’s diagnosis in EastEnders, which made me realise just how important an early diagnosis is.

“You get to a certain age and think you’re too old for some things, but breast cancer isn’t one of them.”

For further information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, go to nhs.uk/breastcancer70