It’s Time To Talk Breast Cancer With Our Mums, Aunts And Grans
1 in 3 women diagnosed with breast cancer are aged 70 and over
Public Health England’s latest ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ breast cancer campaign aims to drive awareness of the risk of breast cancer amongst this age group and to increase their knowledge of lesser-known breast cancer symptoms which can include:
• Changes to the skin of your breast
• Changes in the shape or size of your breast
• Nipple changes
• Nipple discharge
• Pain in your breast
• Any unusual or persistent changes to your breasts
Despite older women being at an increased risk of breast cancer, they are also more likely to delay going to their GP with breast cancer symptoms and there are often cultural and religious issues that can cause delay.
Yvonne, 77, from London, breast cancer survivor and Breast Cancer Care Supporter (image above):
Last year Yvonne noticed changes to the skin of her breast and went straight to her doctor. Yvonne had been diagnosed with breast cancer twice before but didn’t know that the risk of getting the disease increases as you get older. Because of this she strongly believes that no matter how old you are, if you notice any changes to your breasts, you should see your doctor straight away. She says “Women should go to their doctor without being scared. A lot of black people are scared of cancer. But I think, if you notice something unusual it’s best to get it checked out, rather than hoping that you’ll wake up one day and it will just go away. When you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer before, like me, you don’t leave anything to chance.”
Yvonne’s doctor referred her straight away for a mammogram. The results were inconclusive so further tests were scheduled. During this time Yvonne noticed changes to her nipple and she made sure she kept her doctor updated. Further tests revealed cells in her milk ducts that the medical team thought could become cancerous if left untreated.
Yvonne underwent breast surgery to remove the milk ducts and she was successfully treated. She says, “I had some really good doctors helping me; I could tell or ask them anything. Also my family were really there for me. They helped me get through this.”
Yvonne said that a lot of women her age think that even if they are diagnosed with breast cancer over the age of 70 they can’t be treated because they are too old. But she confidently believes that she is alive today because she went to her doctor early. “Look at me I’m over 70. I made sure I went to the doctor early and that’s why I’m here today.”
“We know that breast cancer is still a taboo amongst older black women but the truth is as black women we need to talk about the risk and symptoms of breast cancer more openly to increase our understanding of the disease and reduce the fear and misconceptions associated with it. A lump isn’t the only symptom that is important to know about; other symptoms of breast cancer could also include changes to your breast shape, size, skin or nipple.”
If you or a loved one such as your mother, a relative or close friend have any concerns about changes to your or their breasts then tell your doctor straight away or encourage them to see their doctor. Finding breast cancer early makes it more treatable and could save your life. For more information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer visit nhs.uk/breastcancer70.
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