Breakthrough Breast Cancer is calling on GPs across the country to work with them to help clear up widespread confusion amongst patients about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, the UK’s most common cancer affecting 44,000 women and 300 men each year.
Breakthrough is offering an awareness poster to GP surgeries following research published by the charity which shows that a quarter of women surveyed believe having a persistent cough can be a sign of breast cancer, 81% think a mole on the breast is a sign and a third consider having an extra nipple could indicate the disease.
In fact, none of these are directly related to primary breast cancer – although a persistent cough or changes to moles may be signs of other cancers.
The ICM survey of 1,190 UK women aged over 50 was commissioned by leading breast cancer charity Breakthrough, supported by Avon Cosmetics, as part of the charity’s Show Your Breasts Some TLC: Touch Look Check campaign. It also reveals that although the vast majority of women aged over 50 consider themselves breast aware (87%) and check for breast lumps, many remain unaware of the full range of signs and symptoms to look out for. The charity fears women could be failing to notice other crucial signs of the disease and delay speaking to their GP about any unusual changes in their breasts.
Only 1 in 10 look for inversion of the nipple
Only 14% look for changes in the skin on the breasts
Only 16% say they check for discharge from the nipple
Only 22% said they look for changes in the appearance of the nipple, including a rash
Less than a quarter (23%) said they looked for changes in the size or shape of the breast
Just over half said they looked for lumps in the armpit.
However, all of these could be a sign of the disease and should be reported to a GP as soon as possible.
In addition, the survey also showed that half of all women aged 70 and over remain unaware that they can continue to get free breast screening by making their own appointments through their GP or local breast screening unit. The vast majority of women in this group (88%) reported that since turning 70 their GP or surgery had not talked to them about continuing to make their own breast screening appointments. Breast cancer risk continues to increase the older a woman gets and breast screening can pick up cancer before it can be seen or felt by hand.