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Over-70s are warned not to simply dismiss disease symptoms as signs of ageing
Women in Bradford over the age of 70 are being told not to assume they are past getting breast cancer.
Public health figures showed there were 109 cases of the disease registered among that age group across the Bradford district in 2011, and 36 deaths.
More than half of women quizzed as part of a new Be Clear On Cancer campaign wrongly think women of all ages are equally likely to get breast cancer, when in fact a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases the older she gets.
The Be Clear On Cancer campaign by Public Health England is now on a mission to remind older women not to assume they are past it and to visit their doctor if they spot any changes in their breasts.
Around 1,280 women aged 70 and over are diagnosed with breast cancer in Yorkshire and the Humber each year, but survival rates are lower in that age group compared to younger women.
Experts say it is lack of awareness of symptoms other than a lump, such as changes in the shape or size of the breast, that could be among reasons for it.
Dr Cathy Read, from Public Health England’s Yorkshire and Humber Centre, said the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival, with more than 90 per cent of all women diagnosed with the earliest stage surviving for at least five years - the figure is around 15 per cent for women diagnosed at a late stage.
She added: “Every week around 25 women over 70 from our region are diagnosed with breast cancer. Spotting it earlier can make a real difference, but research shows that women over 70 have low awareness of breast cancer symptoms, other than a lump. They’re also more likely to delay presenting to their GP with breast cancer, which could affect their chance of survival.
“One in three women who get breast cancer are over 70, so don’t assume you’re past it or dismiss any symptoms as a sign of ageing.”
The Be Clear On Cancer campaign will see newnational adverts running on TV and in the press from until March 16.
Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director at NHS England, said: “When we look at other countries such as Sweden, it is clear that we are losing far too many older women to breast cancer. In 2009 it was estimated that around 2,000 deaths from the disease could be avoided each year in England if survival rates matched the best in Europe.
“While we have made good progress in the last decade, we are still lagging behind our international counterparts. This new campaign has an important role to play in helping to increase symptom awareness levels, early diagnoses and, ultimately, survival rates.”
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