Breast cancer awareness campaign targets older women

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 03 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1309
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

Public Health England has launched a national media campaign to increase the early diagnosis of breast cancer among women aged 70 or over.

The move comes as latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that each year a third of women who are given a diagnosis of breast cancer are aged 70 years or over.1 This age group accounts for more than half of all breast cancer deaths annually.2

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign tells older women, “Don’t assume you’re past it.” Advertisements will appear on television and in the press reminding women to visit their doctor if they notice a lump or any changes in the shape or size of their breast.

Each year in England over 13 000 diagnoses of breast cancer are made among women aged 70 or over. The chief medical officer, Sally Davies, said, “Awareness of symptoms and risk is low amongst this age group, meaning these women are more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage. The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of survival.”

An online survey of 1499 women carried out for Public Health England found that 67% of women aged 70 years or over wrongly thought that women of all ages are equally likely to get breast cancer, rather than that the risk increased with age. Women in this age group also had a low awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer, other than a lump.

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 2000 deaths from the disease could be avoided each year in England if survival rates matched the best in Europe.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1309


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