Nearly half (47%) of UK women do not check their breasts regularly for potential signs of breast cancer, with many admitting they ‘forget’ to do so, a study has found.
The survey of 1,086 women, carried out by YouGov and commissioned by charity Breast Cancer Now, revealed that one in ten never check their breasts for new and unusual changes, while 19% did every six months or less and 13% once a year or less.
When asked why they did not regularly self-examine for breast cancer, almost half (46%) said they ‘forget’ and a fifth (21%) said they were ‘not confident’ about what changes they should be looking for.
Breast Cancer Now chief executive Baroness Delyth Morgan has urgently called on women to make checking their breasts ‘a habit of a lifetime’ following the ‘worrying’ survey results.
She said: ‘Regular breast checking remains the first, quick, easy and critical step to spotting any new or unusual changes, ultimately helping to give women who are diagnosed with breast cancer the best chances of survival.’
Breast Cancer Now said it was encouraged that 87% of women who have not had breast cancer said they would visit a doctor if they noticed a new or unusual breast change to get this checked.
However, key reasons given for not doing so included: ‘I feel awkward or embarrassed’; ‘I don’t want to bother my GP who is busy enough due to the Covid-19 pandemic’; and ‘I’m too busy’.
Baroness Morgan continued: ‘The NHS is open for business and calling on people to come forward with any health concerns, reassuring them they won’t be a burden on the NHS.’
Breast Cancer Now suggested women should check their breasts at least every six weeks.
Most breast changes will not be because of cancer but early diagnosis increases the chances of successful treatment and most cases of the disease are detected after women have spotted changes, it said.
The charity’s head of public health and wellbeing Manveet Basra said that ‘there’s no special technique’ to checking your breasts, but it is important to make it ‘part of your routine’.
She continued: ‘Just get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you, so you can spot any new or unusual changes, and remember to check all parts of your breasts, your armpits and up to your collarbone for changes.’
Signs of breast cancer include a lump, nipple discharge, dimpling or puckering of the skin of the breast, the breast looking red or inflamed, or swelling in the upper chest or armpit.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK with one woman diagnosed every ten minutes. Around 55,000 women and 370 men a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK.