Women over 70 urged to be clear on cancer

cynthia lyons 2WOMEN over 70 are being warned not to ignore signs of breast cancer as part of an awareness campaign backed by East Sussex County Council.

The authority is supporting the Public Health England Be Clear on Cancer campaign in a bid to highlight the importance of early diagnosis among older women.

In East Sussex 36 per cent of the 761 women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 were 70 years old or over. In 2011 175 deaths from breast cancer were registered in the county1.

“It is vital that women don’t assume that the older they are, the less likely they are to be affected by the disease,” said Cynthia Lyons, Acting Director of Public Health at East Sussex County Council (pictured). “The fact is the older you are, the more likely you are to get the disease.

“Women often put off getting their symptoms checked for lots of reasons. They may be afraid, embarrassed or worried that they’re wasting their doctor’s time. But even the slightest symptom should be checked out, as early as possible. It might not be anything serious, but if it is finding out sooner can make a real difference.”

Survival rates are lower in women over 70 compared to younger women and lack of awareness of symptoms other than a lump is believed to be one of the reasons for this.

Symptoms can include changes to the nipple, changes to the skin on the breast, changes to the shape or size of the breast and pain in the breast or armpit.

Cynthia Lyons added: “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 stage2.”

Notes for editors:

1 National Cancer Intelligence Service

2 Five-Year Stage-Specific Relative Survival Rates Adults (Ages 15-99), Anglia Cancer Network 2001-2005, Eastern Cancer Registry and Information Centre (ECRIC). Personal communication. www.ecric.org.uk