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Over 2 in 5 (44%) women in the UK do not check their breasts regularly for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer

This Breast Cancer Awareness month, leading research and support charity Breast Cancer Now is calling for all women to ‘get to know their normal,’

As new research commissioned by the charity, reveals over 2 in 5 (44%) UK women don’t check their breasts regularly* for possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer; a worrying increase compared to last year (41%).

According to the YouGov survey, 1 in 10 (10%) UK women revealed they’ve never checked their breasts, and 13% check at least once a year or less.

This is serious cause for concern as two thirds of breast cancers are found when women detect a new or unusual breast change and get this checked out by their GP, and the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of treatment being successful, and lives potentially being saved from breast cancer.

Asked what stops or prevents women* from regular breast checking, a multitude of notable barriers were revealed, including: forgetting to check (46%), not being in the habit of checking their breasts (37%), lacking confidence in checking their breasts (18%), and 14% said they didn’t know how to check their breasts.

Of the women who do check their breasts for possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer, 3 in 10 (29%) don’t feel confident that they would notice a change.

This is why October presents a vital moment to raise awareness of the importance of regular breast checking and of knowing the many different signs and symptoms of the disease.

Manveet Basra, associate director, public health, inclusion and awareness, at Breast Cancer Now, said:

"During Breast Cancer Awareness Month alone, nearly 5,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK.

“Yet the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chance of treatment being successful, and lives potentially being saved from breast cancer. This is why we want every woman to know how vital breast checking is and to feel empowered to regularly check their breasts, so that it’s easier to spot any new or unusual change and get them checked with a GP, along with attending breast screening appointments when invited.

“That fewer women are regularly checking their breasts now than a year ago, is an alarming sign that multiple barriers continue to prevent women from self-checking, and more still needs to be done to educate and support women to ‘know their normal’ and check their breasts regularly for potential signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

“With the most notable barrier to women regularly breast checking being that they forget, from this October, we’re reminding women to get it back on their agenda – this could be as part of their self-care routine while getting dressed, showering or applying moisturiser. Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes and there's no right way to check, as long as you do it regularly. It’s important to check your whole breast area, your armpits and up to your collarbone (upper chest) for changes. At Breast Cancer Now, we say, it’s as simple as TLC: Touch, Look, Check."

For more information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer,

visit breastcancernow.org/checking

If you’re worried about breast cancer or have a question about breast health, Breast Cancer Now is here to support you every step of the way. Speak to our expert nurses now by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 or visit forum.breastcancernow.org

ENDS

 

Case study quote

Stacey Gordon (39, from Corby), was diagnosed with grade three invasive breast cancer in February 2020 at the age of 36. Stacey at first put off seeing the doctor after finding the lump due to her age, but a friend encouraged her to go. She said: “I found a lump under my arm. It wasn’t actually through checking; it was by accident. I had an itchy armpit and then I found the lump. I went to the doctor’s two months later when my friend pushed me to make an appointment. I probably wouldn’t have gone myself because I didn’t think it was anything.  

“At first, the doctor said he thought it was fatty tissue, but sent me for a scan. On the day I went for the scan, I then ended up having two ultrasounds, three mammograms and two biopsies. So I came away thinking something’s going on here; this is not just fatty tissue. A week later I had my breast cancer diagnosis. It was a whirlwind. I was numb. When I heard the word ‘cancer’ my mind was just gone. It’s like you leave your body and it’s just a shell that’s sat there.  

“Before my diagnosis, as a young woman I didn’t think I needed to check my breasts. I didn’t think cancer would happen to me. Now, I regularly check. Some of my friends ask me how to check, how do they know what to look for. I say you’re not looking for anything, you’re getting used to your normal. If you check regularly, you will get used to your body. And if there’s something different, then you can go and get it checked. If you find a change that isn’t normal, it could be nothing, but it could be something. And finding breast cancer sooner is the key.”  

 

Notes To Editors

 

*The 44% of women defined as not ‘regularly’ checking their breasts was made up of women responding that they checked their breasts at least once every 3 months; at least once every 6 months; at least once a year; less than once a year; or never. [‘regular’ breast checking included those who check their breasts at least once a week; at least once a month; and at least once every 6 weeks.]

*In September 2022, 41% of women defined as not ‘regularly’ checking their breasts was made up of women responding that they checked their breasts at least once every 3 months; at least once every 6 months; at least once a year; less than once a year; or never. Alternatively, ‘regular’ breast checking included those who check their breasts at least once a week; at least once a month; and at least once every 6 weeks.

*Women who are checking less than at least once every month, or don’t know how often they check

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2098 adults of which 1127 are females (gender). Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th - 6th September 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

September 2022 results

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2069 adults, of which 1091 were females (gender). Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 15th September 2022.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

* 5,000 people being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2023 from Breast Cancer Now analysis of incidence 2023-25 based on Cancer Research UK, 2023, Age-period-cohort modelling approach using 2020-based population projections.

Asda Tickled Pink proudly funds Breast Cancer Now’s breast awareness projects, including our YouGov Breast Checking Habits surveys.

About Breast Cancer Now

If you’re experiencing breast cancer we’re here, whenever you need us. Be it through our support services, trusted breast cancer information or our specialist nurses who you can reach via our free Helpline and 24/7 Online Forum.

Backed by dedicated campaigners, we’re fighting for the best possible treatment, services, and care, for anyone affected by breast cancer. And support from our amazing fundraisers helps ensure our life-saving research and life-changing support can happen.

If you’re worried about breast cancer or have a question about breast health, we’re here to support you every step of the way. Speak to our expert nurses now by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 or visit forum.breastcancernow.org

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