1 in 7 women attending routine mammograms never check their breasts for signs of cancer
Women aged 50-70 relying on NHS screening to spot breast cancer
One in seven women aged 50 to 70 who attend routine breast screening1 are not checking their breasts for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, according to new YouGov figures released today by Breast Cancer Care.
Routine breast screening only takes place every three years, so it’s important that women check their breasts between mammograms as symptoms can occur at any time. The survey of 1,012 women aged 50 and over showed that, despite the majority of those aged 50 to 70 attending breast screening when they are invited (84%), one in seven (14%) never check their breasts outside these appointments.
The charity also found just over half (51%) of the women surveyed did not know they could continue requesting mammograms after receiving their final screening invitation by the time they are 70 years of age, despite two thirds (65%) saying they would be likely to do so.
Routine Breast Screening every 3 years
The NHS currently offers routine breast screening for all women every three years from the ages of 50 to 70. In some areas of England women are invited to have screening between the ages of 47 and 73 as part of an ongoing trial.
Dorothy Clark, 85, of Weybridge, was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 79 after requesting a mammogram. She says:
“I had always attended routine screening when I was invited, so when I was about 75 I decided to ask for an appointment. I received a letter after that mammogram telling me everything was fine, and suggesting I get checked again in three years’ time. But because I didn’t get an automatic invitation, it slipped my mind.
“It wasn’t until I found some lumps in my breast that I realised I hadn’t had a mammogram in over three years. I requested to be referred for screening. It was then I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I want other women to feel empowered to ask for regular mammograms, whether they’ve spotted a symptom or not. It can be easy to forget, particularly as we get older and other health worries may come to the forefront, but these checks could save your life.”
Geraldine Ward, 55, from Wolverhampton, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. She says:
“I wasn’t checking my breasts on a regular basis, but I thought I was fine because I had had my first routine mammogram, which came back clear. Just six months later, I noticed a lump while I was showering, and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I’m thankful I found the lump, but if I’d realised that I could find a cancer symptom even just a short time after my screening appointment, I would definitely have been more aware of checking my breasts.”
Women are significantly more at risk of developing breast cancer as they get older – eight out of 10 breast cancers are diagnosed in women aged 50 and over2. The charity is calling for women to be aware of changes in their breasts as they age.
Early detection can save lives
Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care, says:
“Early detection of breast cancer can save lives. So it’s vital women know to keep checking their breasts, even if they’re attending regular mammograms, and that they can request screening appointments after the age of 70, as symptoms can occur at any time.
“There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts – it’s about looking and feeling regularly, so any unusual changes can be spotted quickly.
“The majority of breast cancers are diagnosed in women over 50. So we must make sure that, as women get older, they are armed with all the information they need about breast cancer symptoms and routine screening.”
For care, support and information from day one, call Breast Cancer Care’s Nurses free on 0808 800 6000 or visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk