Women over the age of 70 don’t always realise that their risk of breast cancer increases as they get older. Many women are also not aware that they can still go for breast screening by requesting an appointment when they stop automatically being invited for breast screening.
About a third of all breast cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of 70. However, only a small proportion (9%) of these are found through breast screening, compared to nearly 50% in women aged 50-70. It's expected that women aged 71-73 years in England will be routinely invited for screening when the screening programme is extended - this is due to happen in the next couple of years.
Spotting breast cancer early
So why is it important for older women to understand that their risk of getting breast increases as they get older? Finding breast cancer at an early stage can often lead to simpler and more effective treatment and this is as true for women over 70 as any other age group. So it’s important that older women are encouraged to be breast aware and to report any new change without delay. And older women need to know that they can still go for breast screening every three years so long as they remember to phone their local screening unit for an appointment. You can find these using our online tool to NHS Breast Screening services.
Be Clear on Cancer
Women are living longer than ever before and the average life expectancy for women is now 87. Older women can get just as much benefit from breast cancer treatment as younger women. In fact older women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, who are otherwise in good health, are likely to live for many years. There’s a national campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer in women over 70 scheduled to run from 13 July to 6 September 2015. The Be Clear on Cancer campaign will tell women over 70 that if they see any changes to their breasts they should see their doctor straight away. You will see this message in the media including TV advertising.
There’s still a lot of work to be done in getting messages about breast cancer risk, breast awareness, and breast screening to older women. If you have any questions about this call us on 0808 800 6000.