Three million women in UK at risk of cancer due to not doing simple task, survey finds

By Staff 7 Min Read

New research has found that over three million women in the UK have never performed a breast self-exam, putting themselves at risk of allowing cancer to develop

Over three million women in the UK are placing themselves at risk of breast cancer due to never having performed a breast self-examination, according to damning new research.

The study, conducted by King Edward VII’s Hospital, an independent and charitable institution, revealed that over a third of women confessed to not knowing how to perform a breast check, with a concerning 19 per cent admitting that fear of discovering a lump deterred them.

Despite public discussions around breast cancer awareness by notable figures like Sarah, Duchess of York and Tricia Goddard, nearly one in five women admitted they couldn’t even recognise three distinctive signs of the disease. Worryingly, when presented with a roster of possible symptoms and asked which would prompt them to seek medical attention, half of the surveyed women left at least one symptom disregarded.

Adding to the alarming findings, a quarter of the women surveyed confessed uncertainty about the frequency of conducting self-examinations. Most women expressed concern about spotting tell-tale signs such as the discovery of a lump or swelling in the armpit, a fresh lump or thickened tissue and nipple discharge, reports Bristol Live.

Amelia Cook, head of women’s health at King Edward VII’s Hospital, said: “Breast cancer can affect women of all ages, so it’s important we all become connected with our breasts, be aware of what is ‘normal’ for us personally and feel confident in doing so. Early detection of any breast changes can help diagnose breast cancer in its early stages which supports highly successful curative outcomes”. If women are worried about their symptoms they should consult their GP or a health professional immediately.

Top tips from Amelia Cook

1 Choose a consistent time

Make breast self-examination a regular part of your monthly routine, ideally around the same time each month when your breasts are least likely to be swollen or tender so you can be as accurate as possible. For many women, this is shortly after their period. This consistency will help you become more familiar with your breasts and more likely to detect any changes.

2 Visual examination

Start by visually inspecting your breasts in the mirror, both with your arms by your side and with your arms in the air. Look for any changes in size, shape, or contour and for dimpling, puckering, or redness of the skin. Also, look to see if there are any changes in your nipples, such as inversion or discharge.

3 Physical examination

Use the pads of your fingers, not the tips, to feel for any lumps, thickening, or other changes in your breast. Use a circular motion, covering the entire breast area and underarm. Use light pressure to feel the tissue closest to the skin, medium pressure to feel a little deeper, and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the ribcage and chest wall. It can sometimes help to lie down on your back as it helps spread out the breast tissue more evenly.

Some women find it helpful to perform their breast self-exam in the shower using soap or lotion, as it may make it easier to glide your fingers over the skin.

4 Take note of any changes

Lumps are the most common early symptoms of breast cancer but there are many different signs. This can include symptoms like discharge from the nipple, retracted nipples, dimpling of the skin, and others. Anything unusual for you, or a significant change in breast appearance without reasonable explanation, could be a cause for concern. Do remember though that this doesn’t mean you have cancer.

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