Breast cancer wake-up call for women over 70

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Health & Education Editor

WOMEN aged over 70 in the North-East are being warned they are not too old to get breast cancer.

One in three women (33 per cent) diagnosed with breast cancer in the North-East each year is aged 70 or over. This age group also accounts for more than half - 54 per cent - of all breast cancer deaths in the region annually, latest figures show.

This comes as Public Health England launches a new national Be Clear on Cancer campaign - backed up by TV ads -  to remind older women ‘don’t assume you’re past it’, and to visit their doctor if they spot any changes in their breasts.

Surprisingly, more than half of women in the North-East (53 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.

Around 660 women aged 70 and over are diagnosed with breast cancer in the North-East each year, yet survival rates are lower in this age group compared to younger women.

Lack of awareness of symptoms other than a lump, such as changes in the shape or size of the breast, is believed to be one of the reasons for this, which the campaign aims to change.

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.

Dr Tony Branson, medical director of the North of England Cancer Network, said: “Don’t assume you’re past it or dismiss any symptoms as a sign of ageing.”

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