WOMEN in Cheshire aged over 70 have been warned by a leading public health body to be vigilant when checking for signs of breast cancer.
Figures published by Public Health England (PHE) show that 59 per cent of women surveyed in Cheshire and Merseyside believe the likelihood of developing the disease is equal across all age groups.
However, the research – run as part of the Be Clear on Cancer campaign – revealed that women aged 70 and over account for 56 percent of breast cancer deaths, and one-third of all diagnoses occur in that age-group.
Each year 680 women in the area over the age of 70 discover they have the disease, with survival rates lower in that age-bracket than any other.
It is a statistic that could be significantly lowered if symptoms are identified earlier.
More than 90 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the early stages survive for at least five years, compared to 15 per cent of cases that are detected later.
Katie Dee, deputy director of PHE’s Cheshire and Merseyside centre, says the worrying findings could be attributed to older women being in the dark when it comes to identifying the symptoms.
“Research shows that women over 70 have low awareness of breast cancer symptoms, other than a lump,” she said. “They are also more likely to delay presenting to their GP with breast cancer, which could ultimately affect their chances of survival.”
Ms Dee also warned against the common misconception that chances decrease with age.
“One in three women who get breast cancer are over 70, so don’t assume you’re past it or dismiss any symptoms as a sign of ageing,” she said.
In 2009 it was estimated that about 2,000 deaths resulting from the disease could be prevented in England every year if survival rates matched the best in Europe.
Sean Duffy, national clinical director with the NHS, believes the Be Clear on Cancer campaign can be key to more lives being saved in the future.
“While we have made good progress in the last decade, we are still lagging behind our international counterparts,” he said.