Opinion: Know the signs

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Too many older women are dying unnecessarily from breast cancer.The stats tell us that one in three women who get breast cancer are over 70.

Yet this age group is not currently routinely screened and nor does this generation have an understanding of the potential symptoms of the disease, other than a lump. They also delay going to the doctor.

There are several reasons why this could be so, fear of the result being one of them of course.

It’s just as likely that failing to seek medical help quickly is because this is the “ don’t make a fuss” generation. These women often put everyone else before themselves, children, grandchildren, elderly parents. This selflessness could cost them dear.

Public Health England is currently running a campaign to raise awareness of the risk and sypmtoms among the over 70s, stressing that catching the disease early can, literally, mean the difference between life or death.

Christine Harrison, then in her early 60s, got the shock of her life when a routine mammogram revealed that she had breast cancer. Twelve years on, she’s backing the campaign. She knows whe was lucky, the disease was caught in time. Not all women are so fortunate. Of the 126 Sheffield women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, 42 died.

The answer is to be aware of the symptoms - don’t dismiss them as a sign of ageing.

A lump or pain in the breast or armpit, nipple changes, changes to the skin on the breast or to its size or shape are all reasons to get checked out.

It will only take a few minutes. If all is well, don’t feel like you’ve bothered your GP unnecessarily; it’s better to be safe than sorry. If the news is bad, then the earlier the disease is caught the better.

Thanks to medical science, cancer need not be a death sentence , but you need to help yourself by taking responsibility .

Arm yourself with the info - it could be a life-saver. And your family will be very glad that you did.