A new study has found that women with the early warning signs of breast cancer are increasingly delaying visits to their doctor.
Data from 2,316 women found that although most women with a lump sought help quickly, those with “non-lump” symptoms were more likely to avoid a GP compared with women with a breast lump alone.
The study, which is to be presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer conference in Liverpool, found that one in six women with breast cancer visit their doctor with a symptom other than a lump.
Symptoms other than a lump include nipple abnormalities, breast pain, skin abnormalities, ulceration, shape abnormalities and an infected or inflamed breast.
Women with these symptoms were more likely to wait longer than three months to seek help, while the research also found that 15% women with “non-lump” symptoms waited more than 90 days to see a doctor compared with 7% of women who only had a lump.
Researchers from University College London (UCL), who conducted the study, said that more must be done to educate women so they are aware of all the possible signs of breast cancer.
Presenting author Monica Koo said: ”It’s crucial that women are aware that a lump is not the only symptom of breast cancer.
“If they are worried about any breast symptoms, the best thing to do is to get it checked by a doctor as soon as possible.
“Diagnosing cancer earlier really is key in order to increase the chances of survival.”
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now, added: “It is of great concern that women with non-lump symptoms are waiting up to twice as long before visiting their GP.
“This suggests women aren’t as aware that these could be a sign of something serious and we therefore need to do much more to raise awareness of the other key signs of the disease.
“With many patients not getting non-lump changes to their breasts checked out as quickly, thousands of women each year could be delaying the start of their treatment, something that could impact on their chances of survival.
“Ultimately, the key to remaining aware is to get to know how your breasts look and feel normally and to report any unusual changes as soon as possible.”
Almost 54,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in the UK during 2013, according to Cancer Research UK figures.
In 2014, 11,400 people died from the disease.
Top pic: PA