With Breast Cancer Awareness month beginning today (Monday 1st – Wednesday 31st October 2012) the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging all women to be breast aware and to attend screening when invited.
“Prevention and early detection are key to saving lives,” said Dr Adrian Mairs, Consultant in Public Health, PHA and Quality Assurance Director for the Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme.
In 2010/11 a total of 58,419 women aged 50-70 were invited for screening and 44,323 attended. This means that just under a quarter of women who were invited did not take up the offer of screening mammography.
Dr Mairs continued: “The PHA wants to reinforce the message that regular breast screening reduces the risk of death from breast cancer. For every 400 women screened regularly by the breast screening programme, over a 10 year period, one woman fewer will die from breast cancer than would have died without screening.
Most women who attend for breast screening mammography will be identified as having normal mammograms. About 1 in 20 women who attend for screening are referred to an assessment clinic for further investigations and most of these women are given a normal result (4 out of 5 get a normal result). In 2010/11, a total of 358 breast cancers were detected – that’s one woman per day who did not know they had cancer, but who are now getting treatment.
“I would encourage all women who are invited for breast screening to attend. I would also encourage women over the age of 70 to contact their local breast screening unit to ensure they can continue to attend for breast screening. Many women don’t realise that the risk of breast cancer continues to increase with age. Breast screening remains the best way we have of detecting breast cancer at an early stage when treatment can be more effective.”
Lifestyle changes can also help reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease, including stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol, eating a low fat diet, being a healthy weight and taking regular exercise.
“It is also important for women to look out for changes in appearance including size, puckering, dimpling or veins that stand out more than usual; any feelings of pain or discomfort in either the breast or armpit, particularly if it is new and persistent; any lumps or thickening that feels different from the other breast, as well as any swelling or lumps under the armpit or around the collarbone; and any changes to the nipple including shape, discharge, bleeding or a rash,” added Dr Mairs.
“Many changes are harmless but all should be checked by a GP. If the change is due to cancer, earlier detection may mean simpler and more successful treatment.
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 90553663.
Notes to the editor
In Northern Ireland eligible women aged 50 – 70 are invited for breast screening every three years. Women who are older than 70 are encouraged to contact their local breast screening unit to arrange an appointment every three years.
Breast screening is a method of detecting breast cancer at an early stage. It involves taking a low dose x-ray of each breast – a mammogram. The mammogram can detect small changes in breast tissue which may indicate cancers which are too small to be felt either by the woman herself, or by a doctor. Small cancers are less likely to require mastectomy; or chemotherapy.