One in 20 women waiting over six months for correct breast cancer diagnosis

28 April 2015

One in 20 women waiting over six months for correct breast cancer diagnosis

Breast cancer symptoms are being identified up to six months late, with potentially fatal consequences. The same YouGov poll for Breast Cancer Care also found that 17% of women diagnosed with breast cancer 'waited over a month to see GP'.

Almost a fifth of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer after spotting a potential symptom have to wait for over a month before seeing their GP, placing their health at risk as well as their chances of effective treatment. These are the findings of a research poll by YouGov for Breast Cancer Care. It also found that one in 20 women wait more than six months, with potentially fatal consequences.

Nearly a third of the women who waited more than a month to visit their GP believed their symptoms were not a serious issue and one in five were too scared to see the doctor because of their fear it might be breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Care’s chief executive, Samia al Qadhi, said: “There have been many awareness raising campaigns around breast cancer symptoms, but our survey suggests that the job still isn’t done.

“The sooner a cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is likely to be, so it is extremely concerning that some women are waiting more than six months to visit their GP after finding a breast symptom.

“We know how scary it can be to find a breast change, but we want to reassure women that an early diagnosis of breast cancer can mean simpler and more effective treatment.

“We are urging women of any age to get to know their body by looking at and feeling their breasts regularly, there’s no right or wrong way, and if they find any unusual changes for them to not put off visiting their GP.”

About 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, with approximately 65% of cases identified through symptoms. Mistreatment.com regularly speaks to members of the public who are concerned about whether their breast cancer symptoms were spotted quickly enough and dealt with. Often these members of the public have to go through unnecessary treatment or find the cancer has been exacerbated.

YouGov surveyed 409 people between 11 and 16 February, 403 of whom were women. It found that 17% of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer after spotting a potential symptom waited more than a month before seeing their GP, the equivalent of about 6,000 women every year in the UK.

Mistreatment.com agrees with Macmillan Cancer Support who said that early diagnosis was imperative if UK cancer survival rates were to catch up with other European countries.

Responding to Breast Cancer Care’s findings, Macmillan’s director of policy and research, Dr Fran Woodard, said: “It is crucial that people recognise the symptoms for cancer and seek help as soon as possible.

“UK cancer survival rates currently trail behind much of Europe. If we are serious about bridging this gap we need to address issues such as early diagnosis as a matter of urgency. As well as helping people to recognise cancer symptoms, we must also support GPs to make timely referrals and ensure people are tested as quickly as possible.”

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