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Women hesitant to follow up breast symptoms

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Earlier diagnosis of breast cancer vital Earlier diagnosis of breast cancer vital

Practice nurses have a role to raise awareness around the symptoms of breast cancer and the importance of early diagnosis, as a YouGov survey finds 17% of women delay more than a month before attending general practice with a symptom of breast cancer.

The survey, commissioned by the charity Breast Cancer Care, also found that 5% of women did not visit their general practice for more than six months after the symptom was discovered. It highlighted a lack of awareness of the symptoms of breast cancer.

10% of those who waited more than a month did not have a lump but another symptom such as a rash on the breast or changes to the texture of skin around the nipple, or swelling around the armpit of collarbone.

Jackie Harris, a clinical lead nurse at Breast Cancer Campaign, said: 'Practice nurses should remind women at key times, such as when they are pregnant or having cervical smears. They also have opportunities to remind patients about the importance of breast health, and that they should have a checkup as soon as possible if they notice a symptom of breast cancer.'

Samia al Qadhi, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: 'There have been many awareness raising campaigns around breast cancer symptoms, but our survey suggests that the job still isn't done. The sooner a cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is likely to be.'

The survey also examined the reasons that led to women to delay visiting their general practice. Approximately 30% said that they did not think the symptom was a serious issue, while 8% were reluctant to visit their general practice as they thought it would be a waste of the medical professional's time. A fifth of the respondents to the survey said that they did not go to an appointment as they were too frightened of the possibility of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ms al Qadhi added: 'Our survey identifies the main reasons for a delay could be the fear of being diagnosed and not realising a symptom may be breast cancer. We know how scary it can be to find a breast change but we want to reassure women that an early diagnosis of breast cancer can mean simpler and more effective treatment.'

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