Primary care nurses should ensure they check women over the age of 70 for symptoms of breast cancer, as part of a new campaign by PHE.
The campaign, Be Clear on Cancer, aims to raise awareness of breast cancer in older women, who may defer visiting their general practice if they notice signs of the condition such as a lump on the breast. Approximately 41,200 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, making it the most common cancer in women in England. Additionally, of the 9500 women who die from breast cancer each year, 5400 of these are women over the age of 70, which is why the campaign has been launched.
Julie Thomson, senior officer for cancer screening, said: 'Women over the age of 70 may not recognise that changes to their body are a sign of breast cancer, and may put it down to ageing. Primary care nurses should be aware of this and urge them to raise any concerns they may have.'
A pilot of the scheme in February 2014 found a 25% increase in the number of cancers diagnosed in general practice for women aged 70 and over. PHE have stated that diagnosis in practice is essential, as 93% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage live for five or more years after diagnosis, compared to 13% who are diagnosed in advanced stages.
Sean Duffy, national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, said: 'Early diagnosis of cancer is absolutely critical to improving survival. Part of this is helping people understand what symptoms to look out for, which is why campaigns like this are so important.'
The campaign also aims to raise the awareness of symptoms for patients. PHE found that 52% of women aged 70 and over could not name a symptom of breast cancer other than a lump. Dr Ann Hoskins, PHE's deputy director of health and wellbeing said that women over the age of 70 'tend to have lower knowledge of the symptoms of breast cancer, and are not necessarily looking at or feeling their breasts so are less likely to detect change'.