This site is intended for health professionals only

Breast cancer "biggest fear for women"

Breast cancer is still the disease women in the UK fear most, according to a survey published today.

It found that more than two in five women (42%) of all ages are most afraid of getting breast cancer, followed by Alzheimer's/dementia (40%) and lung cancer (28%).

There was a distinct variation between different regions with more than half of women in the North East (52%) being afraid of breast cancer compared to a third of women in London (33%).

When asked whether progress had been made in breast cancer research in recent years, there was a resounding thumbs up. An overwhelming majority (85%) recognised the progress made over the last 10 years, particularly in older women who have perhaps witnessed the changes. Most of those polled (88%) also knew that survival rates have improved compared to those for breast cancer 10 years ago.

There are a number of factors responsible for this improvement in survival, says Breast Cancer Campaign. Around 62% of those questioned correctly identified earlier diagnosis, increased awareness of breast cancer and its symptoms (42%), and breast cancer screening (43%) as contributing to better survival rates.

In addition, continued advances in surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as well as hormone and targeted treatments have led to breast cancer mortality rates falling by 20% since 1989.

Pamela Goldberg, Chief Executive Breast Cancer Campaign, said: "Despite acknowledging that the outlook for breast cancer patients is far brighter than ever before, the fear of breast cancer is still significant. Longer survival also means that patients are just as concerned about quality as well as quantity of life and the psychosocial aspects of breast cancer are becoming ever more important.

"Indeed, the 21st century woman with breast cancer is justified in feeling more positive about the future with the introduction of drugs such as herceptin and the aromatase inhibitors which are bringing real benefits for people with breast cancer. Genetic testing for those with a family history of breast cancer is also giving high risk women a choice about their future.
"Over 80% of people diagnosed with breast cancer today will survive for more than five years. This is the result of years of breast cancer research.

"However, there is still a long way to go. In order to make further progress in the treatment and management of breast cancer, investment in world class research has to be a priority. We need a science and research environment that fosters and retains talent, provides well resourced research facilities and better education and training opportunities for researchers," said Pamela Goldberg.

Breast Cancer Campaign