Lack Of Awareness Of Breast Cancer Symptoms In Older Women ‘To Blame For Late Diagnosis'
Experts have warned that a lack of awareness and knowledge of breast cancer symptoms among older women could be to blame for the high numbers of late diagnosis in older age groups.
The research, carried out by the University of Cambridge and the Eastern Cancer Registration and Information Centre (ECRIC), involved questioning 17,800 women with breast cancer and 13,200 with lung cancer.
All women were from the east of England and had been diagnosed between 2006 and 2009. Researchers based their findings from data in the British Journal of Cancer, which measured how advanced the cancer is when diagnosed.
Researchers discovered that women aged 70 to 74 have a 21% higher chance of being diagnosed with late stage breast cancer, compared to women aged 65 to 69.
The risk of late diagnosis gets higher among as women get older, with women aged 75 to 79 being 46% more likely to have late stage diagnosis compared to younger women.
In comparison, when researchers focused on lung cancer, they discovered that the risks fall with advancing age. Compared to women aged 65 to 69, those aged 70 to 74 were 18% less likely to be diagnosed with late stage lung cancer.
Women who were even older, in the 75 to 79 age bracket, had their risks slashed by 26%.
Dr Georgios Lyratzopoulos, study author based at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement: "Patient awareness of the signs of breast cancer is known to be lower among older women and this may explain why breast cancer is diagnosed later among this age group.
"But it is puzzling why older patients have a lower risk of advanced stage lung cancer. More research is needed to better understand this pattern."
Dr David Greenberg, study author based at ECRIC, explained in a statement: “Collecting staging data has proved difficult in the past but this data is vital to understanding how to improve the diagnosis of cancer. ECRIC has the most complete information on stage.
“A modernisation programme for cancer registries aims to improve the collection of such information nationwide by end of 2012.”
Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, also said in a statement: “If cancer is caught early, patients have a better chance of beating the disease as more effective treatment options are available.
“We have made great progress in improving cancer survival rates in the last 40 years, but there is still more work to be done to help more people survive cancer.
“Collecting information on stage at diagnosis is vital to do this and we must think how to target messages appropriately to the right audiences.
“Cancer Research UK works to raise symptom awareness, and encourage and enable people to go visit their doctor as soon as they notice anything unusual for their bodies.”
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