Around one in three women (32 per cent) diagnosed with breast cancer in Cumbria and Lancashire each year is aged 70 years or over. This age group also accounts for more than half (52 per cent) of all breast cancer deaths in the area annually, latest figures show.

This comes as Public Health England launches a new national Be Clear on Cancer campaign to remind older women ‘don’t assume you’re past it’, and to visit their doctor if they spot any changes in their breasts.

Surprisingly, almost half of women in Cumbria and Lancashire (45 per cent) wrongly think women of all ages are equally likely to get breast cancer, when in fact a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases with age.

Around 550 women aged 70 and over are diagnosed with breast cancer in Cumbria and Lancashire each year, yet survival rates are lower in this age group compared to younger women. Lack of awareness of symptoms other than a lump, is believed to be one of the reasons for this, which the campaign aims to change.

Possible signs of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in your breast or armpit
  • Nipple changes
  • Changes to the skin of your breast
  • Changes in the shape or size of your breast
  • Pain in your breast or armpit

The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival – more than 90 per cent of all women diagnosed with the earliest stage survive for at least five years. This figure is around 15 per cent for women diagnosed at a late stage.

Lynn Donkin, Public Health Specialist at Blackpool Council, said: “Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women in Blackpool.

“The good news is that if it’s caught in the early stages the outcomes can be good and more than 90 per cent of women who are diagnosed at an early stage will live at least five years.

“Even so around 30 Blackpool women die from breast cancer each year, and just over half of these women are over 70. We know that treatment can be very effective, and the earlier it’s caught the better.

“Be aware of what’s normal for you and if you notice any changes see your doctor straight away.”

Dr Jane Rossini, Cumbria and Lancashire Centre Director at Public Health England, said: “Research shows that women over 70 have low awareness of breast cancer symptoms, other than a lump. They’re also more likely to delay presenting to their GP with breast cancer, which could ultimately affect their chance of survival.

“One in three women who get breast cancer is over 70, so don’t assume you’re past it or dismiss any symptoms as a sign of ageing.”

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign will see new national adverts running on TV and in the press until 16 March.

Cancer prevention is one of the health priorities of the Altogether Now partnership programme, which is run between the NHS in Blackpool (Clinical Commissioning Group and Teaching Hospitals); Blackpool Football Club; and Blackpool Council. It aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the town and as part of this programme there are a number of ambassadors who support health messages and campaigns such as the Be Clear on Cancer campaign.

Dr Amanda Doyle, Chief Clinical Officer at NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Blackpool has high rates of cancer which is why prevention and early diagnosis are a priority for us.

“The ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign will help increase awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer for women over the age of 70.  Anyone who thinks they may have symptoms or are concerned about breast cancer should contact their GP as soon as possible.”

For more information on breast cancer in women over 70 please visit www.nhs.uk/breastcancer70.

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

  • NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is a group of 24 GP practices from across the area whose role it is to plan and commission or ‘buy’ healthcare services on behalf of local people.
  • The CCG has a total commissioning budget of £230 million for the financial year 2013/14 and are committed to spending that money wisely and for the benefit of the people of the area.

For further information please contact the media team at NHS Lancashire and Staffordshire CSU on 01772 214213.