More than half of the population do not know what secondary breast cancer is, according to a new survey from leading UK charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Tuesday 30 September 2014      General Health information
The one that kills: 55% don't know what secondary breast cancer is

Secondary breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer, kills 1,000 women each month* in the UK alone yet worryingly more than half of the population do not know what this disease is, according to a new survey from leading UK charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

While 45% of respondents surveyed answered correctly - when breast cancer has spread to another part of the body and cannot yet be cured - results revealed that 26% of respondents surveyed believed it to be when breast cancer has been treated and has returned to the breast. A small proportion of people believed that the disease is not serious and 19% had no idea.

Our vision to stop breast cancer for good

The YouGov survey coincides with the launch of Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s new vision to Stop Breast Cancer For Good, which centres on a stronger focus into the causes of and treatments for secondary breast cancer.  

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, with around 50,000 women receiving the diagnosis each year – that’s approximately one woman every 10 minutes, however survey results show that more than half of the population do not know this. Around 14% believe it to be prostate cancer, 13% bowel cancer, 12% lung cancer, 4% leukaemia and 10% unsure.

Results also showed that, out of around 1,800 respondents, almost half think that just 7,000 or fewer UK women die from breast cancer each year, however the shocking truth is that it is almost double that – with 12,000 losing the fight each year.

Chris Askew, CEO at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said:

“These results reveal ultimately what we already knew – more work needs to be done. As a breast cancer charity which focuses on research and campaigning, we have known for a long time how serious this disease is and the level of work that needs to be done to stop breast cancer for good. “It is worrying however that the public is unaware of how serious breast cancer really is – in order for us to put an end it and ensure that we stop the disease from taking the lives of our mothers, wives, daughters and sisters it’s crucial that we rally up as much support as possible.

“There is so much more to be done in order to stop breast cancer for good, and we’re finally at a point in our work where we can almost see the finishing line.  This doesn’t have to be a disease that kills, however without more support, more awareness, more funding and more research breast cancer will continue to be one of the UK’s biggest killers.“

Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s work, in addition to raising health awareness to help improve prevention, will focus on how we can stop breast cancer from spreading to other organs where the disease can no longer be cured and treatments are very limited.

Living with secondary breast cancer

Mani Coulter, living with secondary breast cancer who was chosen to take part in a Kadcyla drug trial, said:

“I’m one of the lucky ones – my doctor referred me to take part in a new drug trial when my breast cancer returned and spread. I’ve been on Kadcyla for two years and both my family and I are so relieved that the drug is working for me and my cancer is treatable. When I first learned about my diagnoses my biggest worry was not being able to see my little girl Mya, 12, grow up.

“Sadly, I know this isn’t the story for everybody and it’s heart-breaking to think that children, like Mya, are growing up without their mothers. There are so many missed moments, not being able to see your child’s first day at school, celebrate their 16th birthday, and for the children – not being able to make your mum a birthday card and see how happy she is to open it.

“I’m so pleased that more is being done to campaign for a better access to drugs – we’ve seen a great amount of pressure forced onto both the government and drug companies recently urging them to reach a better compromise for drug prices.“

Breakthrough Breast Cancer is working tirelessly to make this happen and will continue to do so until women facing a secondary breast cancer diagnosis can carry on living their lives. Whether this is seeing their children grow up,  or going on a family holiday, or finally enjoying that hard-earned retirement package - If even one woman loses her life to breast cancer, it’s one too many.

Funding a quarter of the UK’s breast cancer research, Breakthrough Breast Cancer works closely with leading scientists, experts and doctors, patients and their families in order to transform the outlook for those dealing with breast cancer. Breakthrough is urging everybody who shares its belief that breast cancer can, and must, be stopped to join the movement today and make a real difference.

More information

Find out more about secondary breast cancer

Notes to editors

*Source: Cancer Research UK 2010
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,074 adults, of which 1,087 were women. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd - 4th September 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).