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Breast Cancer Ireland reveal worrying low levels of breast cancer awareness

Breast Cancer Ireland has today released worrying findings of an extensive body of research recently carried out by CORE into the self-checking behaviours and overall awareness of the 8 signs and symptoms of breast cancer, amongst Irish women.

The extensive pre and post campaign research conducted as part of a recent heavyweight awareness and education campaign entitled “MakeTime2Check” run by the charity indicates the sheer scale of the challenges at play when it comes to driving awareness and education amongst women of all ages about the signs and symptoms of this awful disease.

In keeping with the global theme of World Cancer Day this year on 4th February, that of “Realizing the Problem”, Breast Cancer Ireland commissioned this research in order to better identify areas of weakness and knowledge gaps amongst the at large, thus determining the best possible spend of BCI funding into high impact, tailored outreach and education programmes across Ireland.

Despite the startling statistic of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer every 29 seconds around the world, it appears that the need for ongoing education and awareness driving initiatives is greater than ever before with stark research findings also revealing the following:

  • Only 34% of the Irish women (over 18) surveyed check their breasts once a month as advised
  • 44% check their breasts only when they remember to do so – and less regularly than once a month
  • 30% of women who don’t check their own breasts are still ‘unsure as to what to look for’ with regards to the 8 signs and symptoms of the disease (Whilst 86% of women are aware of a lump being a sign of the disease, significantly less (68%) are aware that skin issues such as dimpling on the skin or a rash around the nipple (55%), are also cause for concern, and should be investigated further)
  • 19% of women who don’t check their own breasts are unsure as to how to properly perform a self-breast check, with 9% of these women believing that this is something that can/should only be conducted by a trained health professional

Whilst figures show that following the #MakeTime2Check campaign run by Breast Cancer Ireland, incidence of women checking their breasts (at least monthly) rose from 26% – 34% (representing an increase of 160,000 women checking their breasts monthly), there is clearly still much work to be done in addressing these knowledge gaps and behavioural challenges.

Interestingly, there were also significant differences in the levels of breast awareness amongst differing age groups with just 23% of younger women in the 18–29-year bracket, checking their breasts regularly, versus 34% of those in the 50–69-year-old age bracket doing so. Socio-economic factors also seem to play a role, with the highest numbers of those checking regularly in the AB cohort (33%) versus lowest numbers checking in the DE cohort (27%).

Commenting on the research findings, CEO of Breast Cancer Ireland, Aisling Hurley says,

Our message to women (and men) of all ages this World Cancer Day is this – you are your own first, and best, line of defence. Early detection of breast cancer is key – we urge everyone to learn all 8 signs and symptoms associated with the disease and check your breasts monthly for any abnormalities. Please don’t wait patiently for a free mammogram if you notice any of the signs or symptoms – instead have any abnormality checked as soon as possible by your GP. We remember with great sadness, Sarah Harding’s passing at just 39, a young woman with the world at her feet, who was aware of abnormalities but devastatingly, she waited too long to have these investigated further.

Aisling continued “The statistics are stark with regards to this research – there simply aren’t enough women checking their breasts properly or often enough, nor do enough women understand that there are no less than 8 signs and symptoms to be aware of. For this reason, our upcoming #MoreThanJustALump education campaign, and our ongoing roll out of education and awareness seminars up and down the country, aim to greatly reduce the knowledge gaps around lesser-known symptoms of the disease. This World Cancer Day, Breast Cancer Ireland’s progress continues with research and clinical trials ongoing, seeking to develop newer, targeted therapies for the many different subtypes of breast cancer experienced, so that we can transform this disease into a treatable illness, that can be maintained long term, but this progress must be aligned to greater levels of self-checking and breast awareness in order to help us truly change the landscape of this disease into the future”

 *of women who don’t check their breasts

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