This isn’t a generalisation of a generation here, but I had a long hard think of the wonderful women I know over 70 and worryingly, if they found a lump in their breast, ‘it’ll be something and nothing’ would be exactly the casual response I would hear. I suspect the majority of you also know of someone similar. If you do, then this is exactly the article you might want to read as we point out the facts and share what can be done for those who may have ‘something’ by supporting the ‘Be Clear On Cancer’ campaign.
I’m not a clinician; health analyst or psychologist but I have female family, friends and neighbours who are 70 years young. For those that sadly have had cancer, I’d argue that most of them (and it’s not hard to see why), were initially in absolute denial. Denial shrouded in fear that a lump found probably wasn’t anything to worry about. ‘I feel fine; I don’t feel ill at all. It’ll be ok. It’ll go away…’. Unfortunately, the chances of cancer going away lessen and lessen the more time it’s left or ignored – the official term is non-recognition but by recognising what leaving or ignorning it really means, that in itself could save a life.
It is estimated that if England was to achieve cancer survival rates that matched the best in Europe, then up to 10,000 cancer deaths each year could be avoided through earlier diagnosis and access to treatment. In short, getting to a GP as soon as you notice any changes or suspect things just aren’t quite right. Julia and Joan noticed that something ‘just wasn’t quite right’ and did something about it almost straight away. They are here today and living full lives thanks to recognising that it wasn’t nothing to them. Click here for their stories.
And so this week, we’re supporting Public Health England’s Be Clear on Cancer – breast cancer in women over 70 campaign.
A few facts first:
- Around one in three women diagnosed with breast cancer in Yorkshire and the Humber each year are aged 70 or over. Latest figures show this age group also accounts for more than half of all breast cancer deaths in the area annually.
- Surprisingly, over half of women in Yorkshire and the Humber 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.
- 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 seeing their GP. They might be embarrassed, afraid of treatment, unaware that they are more likely to develop breast cancer, or dismissive of symptoms as a sign of ageing.
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 survive for at least five years. This figure is around 15 per cent for women diagnosed at a late stage.
Possible signs of breast cancer include a lump in the breast or 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. Women should tell their GP if they notice any changes to their breasts.
For further information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, please click here.
TV presenter Cilla Black, 70 years of age, is supporting the new campaign. She commented:
“It’s so important to carry on checking your breasts as you get older because the chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age. The earlier it’s caught the better, so know the symptoms, and don’t be afraid to visit your doctor if you are concerned about any potential signs.”
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Chair of Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said:
“There’s been a lot of progress made with breast cancer diagnosis and treatment but the most recent statistics for Leeds show that 166 women over 70 were diagnosed for treatment and 72 sadly died because of this disease. I really want to encourage women to make sure they keep checking for signs of cancer and get checked out if they have got any doubts or concerns.”
Local organisations and community groups who work with women aged 70 and over can support the campaign using posters and leaflets which can be downloaded from here.
We really hope it’s nothing, but just in case it is something, please act today – perhaps these real life accounts will encourage you – click here.