Younger women delay breast check

breast checkMany women who find a lump in their breast delay seeing a doctor because they believe that only women over 50 or those with a family history develop breast cancer, a new study has found.

According to the research, by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) and the Athlone Institute of Technology, almost two-thirds of Irish women see a health professional immediately after discovering a breast lump or change.

However, almost a quarter of the women waited for one to two weeks and 4% of women waited 12 – 18 months before seeing their doctor.

The most common reason cited by participants for not going to their GP sooner was because they did not think the breast change was serious.

Another common reason for delaying seeking medical advice was because of other ongoing personal issues such as a divorce or a recent pregnancy.

The study was conducted in four major cancer care hospitals across Ireland and was published at the launch of the Irish Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

One in 11 women living in Ireland will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. And the latest data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland shows that 2,479 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 2007.

Researcher Dr Noreen Cushen said the study shows that a significant proportion of women, when they detect a change in their breast, do not seek medical advice immediately.

“Women need to build breast awareness into their daily routine rather than promoting a rigid self-examination policy. They need to know their breasts and act immediately when they notice a change. Every breast change has to be investigated,” Dr Cushen said.

Speaking at the launch of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Joan Kelly from the ICS said: “Women who have changes in the breast often mistake symptoms as being benign, believe that breast cancer is unlikely in the absence of a positive family history, or that they are too young. However, it is very important that women understand that all new breast changes should be investigated.”