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By Newsdesk

Sunday, February 9, 2014.

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.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in England with around 41,500 women diagnosed each year and around 5,400 women over 70 die from the disease annually.

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 women from black African and Caribbean communities to know the signs and symptoms, talk to their daughters or daughters-in-laws and visit their doctor if they spot any changes in their breasts.

With many only on the lookout for a lump in the breast, other signs of the disease are often overlooked. The ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign pushes women to identify several lesser-known but equally important signs of the disease, including: pain in the breast or armpit; changes to the nipples, size or shape of the breasts; lump in your breast or armpit and changes to the skin of your breast.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Regional Director at Public Health England, points out that 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 black Caribbean and African women,” she says. “Women cannot afford to ignore the statistics - one in three women who get breast cancer are over 70[i], 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.” 

Be Clear on Cancer campaigns are run by Public Health England, in partnership with the Department of Health and NHS England. The campaign was piloted in the West Midlands and Gloucestershire from January to March 2013, as part of the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative, run in partnership with Cancer Research UK, to improve England’s cancer survival rates.

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 Black Caribbean and African women are encouraged to talk about the issue.

It recently received celebrity support, with actress Dona Croll featuring in an infomercial designed for Black Britain. Speaking on her role in the project, Dona commented:

“If losing precious lives to breast cancer can be avoided, then we must take every step necessary to prevent this. Educating women – specifically older woman from our communities – on the importance of discussion and subsequently, early diagnosis is vitally important. I am keen to help spread awareness and encourage women to monitor their health more vigilantly.”

For more information on breast cancer in women over 70 please visit nhs.uk/breastcancer70.




Black British Women Are Urged to Know the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

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