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How ten minutes may boost breast awareness

Wednesday June 29th, 2011

Education programmes for elderly women may help with the detection of breast cancer, British researchers say today.

Doctors in London tested the benefits of a programme conducted by radiographers for women aged 70.

The women, who were attending their final breast screening session, had a ten minute talk with a radiographer and received a booklet about the symptoms of breast cancer.

The researchers found that after two years some 21 per cent of these women were "breast cancer aware". Although the number is low, it compared with just six per cent of women who did not have the intervention.

Risk of breast cancer increases as women age - so experts say it is important that elderly women can recognise symptoms early. In addition breast screening in the UK ceases at the age of 70.

Professor Amanda Ramirez, of King’s College, London, UK, said: "If the pilot is successful and the scheme is rolled out across the Breast Screening Programme then we can look at whether the gains in breast cancer awareness lead to a reduction in the number of advanced breast cancer cases – and deaths – in older women no longer being routinely screened for the disease.

With this approach we have the potential to avoid about 500 breast cancer deaths per year.”

And Sara Hiom, of Cancer Research UK, added: “A woman’s risk of breast cancer increases with age – over 80 per cent of cases occur in women over 50. So it’s vital for older women to be aware of breast cancer symptoms so they don’t delay seeing their doctor.

“These symptoms include anything that is unusual for your breasts such as a lump, changes to the nipple like a rash or discharge, or dimpling of the skin.

“The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the greater the treatment options available – and the better the chance of survival from the disease.”

A promoting early presentation intervention increases breast cancer awareness in older women after two years: a randomised controlled trial, Forbes, L, et al., BJC (2011) DOI:10.1038/bjc.2011.205

Tags: Cancer | Elderly Health | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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