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1 in 3 women who get breast cancer are over 70, so don’t assume you’re past it.

Friday 23rd February, 2018

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer in England with around 44,300 women diagnosed each year. The older you are, the more likely you are to get it – one in three women who get breast cancer are aged 70 and over. If breast cancer is detected early, it is more treatable. Finding it early could save your life.

How to spot it

Women are encouraged to be breast aware. It is important to get to know how your breasts look and feel normally, so that you’ll find it easier to spot something unusual.

Feel the whole of your breasts and your armpits. Does anything seem different? Look at your breasts in the mirror. Do they appear to have changed at all? If you notice an unusual change, tell your doctor. Possible signs of breast cancer include:

  • A lump or thickening in your breast or armpit
  • Changes to the skin of your breast
  • Changes in the shape, size or feel of your breast
  • Nipple changes
  • Nipple discharge
  • Pain in your breast
  • Any other unusual or persistent changes to your breasts

If you have any of the above symptoms, your doctor will want to see you.

How important it is to see your doctor

If you notice any changes in your breasts, it is important that you contact your doctor straight away. You’re not wasting anyone’s time and it’s much better to be sure, if only to put your mind at rest.

Finding breast cancer early makes it more treatable. A trip to your doctors surgery could save your life. And if a friend or relative says they have any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.

Breast cancer screening

Breast screening uses x-rays to look at the breasts (mammography). Women between the ages of 50 and 70 are currently invited for free screening every three years.

Screening can detect breast cancer at an earlier stage. In some parts of England, some women aged 47–49 and 71–73 are being invited for screening as part of a major research trial.

If you’re over 70, you can ask for a free screening every three years. Just get in touch with your local breast screening unit to make an appointment (find breast screening services on  the NHS Choices website). 

For information to help you decide whether or not you want to have breast screening, you can read about the process and its benefits and risks in the information which comes with your screening invite or on the breast cancer screening pages of the NHS Choices website

Whatever your age, and even if you attend screening, it’s important to remain breast aware. If you find anything unusual or notice a possible symptom, don’t wait for your screening appointment – see your doctor right away to be on the safe side.