YORKSHIRE Cancer Research is urging women in Harrogate to attend breast screening appointments following new statistics that reveal the area has the highest breast cancer incidence and mortality rates in Yorkshire.
Between 2012 and 2014, there were 176 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women in the Harrogate and Rural District CCG - the highest rate in Yorkshire and significantly higher than the Yorkshire average of 160 cases per 100,000 women. Over the three years, 465 women in the area were diagnosed with breast cancer 1.
Harrogate and Rural District CCG also had the highest mortality rate for breast cancer over the three years, with 41 deaths per 100,000 women compared to the Yorkshire average of 34 deaths per 100,000 women 2.
Breast cancer rates tend to be higher in more affluent areas, and this is associated with preventable lifestyle risk factors such as obesity, alcohol intake and a lack of exercise. Around 27% of all breast cancers are believed to be caused by these factors 3.
Yorkshire Cancer Research is aiming to raise awareness of the importance of attending screening appointments and to encourage women to check for any changes in the appearance or feel of their breasts as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout October.
Breast screening is currently available through the NHS for all women aged 50 to 70, and women are invited to attend appointments every three years. Screening rates in Harrogate are above the national average, with 74.8% of women taking part in the programme. However, this means that a quarter of women are failing to go for screening when invited 4.
There is also a huge variation in breast screening rates across Harrogate and Rural District CCG. Data by GP practice shows that participation ranges from 67.6% to 80.9%. Three GP practices in the CCG have screening uptake rates below 70% 4.
Around 62% of cancers diagnosed through screening are found at stage 1 5. Figures show that 99% of patients with stage 1 breast cancer survive for five years following diagnosis 6.
Lisa Trickett, Community Health Initiatives Manager at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “With such high breast cancer incidence rates in the Harrogate area, it is vital that as many women as possible attend their screening appointments when invited. Screening can detect cancer before symptoms are noticeable, so it is incredibly important in catching the disease at an early stage, when treatment options and chances of a full recovery are greater.
“If any women have missed their screening appointment or they are above the upper age limit of 70, they can request an appointment from their local screening centre and we would urge them to do so. If you are between screens, or too young for screening, then please check your breasts yourself and talk to a doctor straight away if you notice anything unusual.”
From April 2014 to March 2015, nearly 900 women in the Harrogate and Rural District CCG were urgently referred to hospital with signs of breast cancer 4.
Linda Ko Ferrigno, who has lived in Harrogate for nine years, is backing the campaign to raise awareness of the disease.
Linda, 51, was prompted to check her breasts for symptoms after a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found a lump and after visiting her GP and being referred to hospital, she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself.
Linda underwent a lumpectomy in November 2015 followed by a three-week course of radiotherapy. She will now take cancer prevention drug Tamoxifen for five years and will also attend annual mammograms for the next five years so doctors can monitor her breasts for any signs of the cancer returning.
Linda said: “I know you don’t have time, or that you forget and sometimes just can’t be bothered to check your breasts. I know because that’s how I felt for the past 30 years. But it’s crucially important and it’s how my own breast cancer was picked up at an early stage. Similarly, breast cancer screening is vitally important. Yes, it’s a little inconvenient and uncomfortable, but those 15 minutes you spend at your screening appointment could save your life.”
To read more of Linda’s story, please visit www.ycr.org.uk/linda.
Symptoms of breast cancer include:
• A change in how your nipple looks
• A change in the size or shape of your breast
• A lump or area of thickened tissue in your breast
• A lump or swelling in your armpit
• A rash on or around your nipple
• Dimpling on the skin of your breast
• Discharge from your nipple
Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.
Between screening tests talk to your doctor straight away if you notice any symptoms of breast cancer.
Get to know your breasts
This will make it easier to notice any changes in how they look or feel.
• A good time to check your breasts is when you are in the bath or shower.
• Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, up towards your collarbone.
• Look with your arms down by your sides and with them up in the air.
Breast screening - mammograms
An x-ray test called a ‘mammogram’ is used for breast screening. This test can find breast cancers when they are too small to see or feel.
Mammograms are carried out at special clinics or mobile breast screening units by a female member of staff. Your breasts will be x-rayed one at a time. The mammogram will then be checked for any signs of cancer.
Who can be screened?
• If you are aged 50 to 70 (or 47 to 73 in some areas) and are registered with a GP you should be sent an invitation for breast screening every three years.
• If you are aged over 70, you will stop being automatically invited for screening. You can make an appointment by contacting your local screening unit – please visit www.nhs.uk/service-search.
If you think you may have missed a breast screening, or have not been invited, contact your local screening centre to make an appointment. Make sure your doctor has your current contact details.
It is important that you keep going for breast screening during the time it is offered.
1. CancerData, Incidence, http://cancerdata.nhs.uk/incidence
2. CancerData, Mortality, http://cancerdata.nhs.uk/mortality
3. Parkin, Boyd and Walker, The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010, British Journal of Cancer 2011, 105: S1-S81.
4. Public Health England, National General Practice Profiles – Cancer, http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/general-practice/data, Accessed [February 2016].
5. NCIN, Routes to diagnosis 2006-2013 workbook (b), http://www.ncin.org.uk/publications/routes_to_diagnosis
6. Cancer Research UK, Breast cancer survival by stage at diagnosis, http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer/survival#heading-Three
Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.