OLDER women in the West Midlands are being warned they should not assume they are too old to develop breast cancer.
Figures released by Public Health England this week show one in three women in the region diagnosed with the disease are aged 70 and over, but four out of ten incorrectly believe the likelihood of developing the condition does not change with age.
This group also accounts for 55 per cent of all deaths from breast cancer across the region every year and 1,500 women older than 70 are diagnosed with the disease each year.
Public Health England has launched a new campaign entitled Be Clear on Cancer, advising women to visit their doctors if they notice any changes in their breasts.
Public Health England’s consultant in public health for the West Midlands Dr Lola Abudu said: “Research shows that women over 70 have low awareness of breast cancer symptoms, other than a lump.
“They’re also more likely to delay presenting to their GP with breast cancer, which could ultimately affect their chance of survival.
“So if you are women aged over 70, don’t assume you’re past it or dismiss any breast symptoms as a sign of ageing.”
The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the higher the chance of survival.
The campaign has won the support of 76-year-old British actress Barbara Windsor, who said: "I met a lot of women affected by breast cancer when I was preparing for Peggy Mitchell's diagnosis in Eastenders, which made me realise just how important an early diagnosis is.
"You get to a certain age and think you're too old for some things, but breast cancer isn't one of them."
National clinical director at NHS England Sean Duffy said he hoped the campaign would help raise awareness of symptoms of breast cancer.
"In 2009 it was estimated that around 2,000 deaths from the disease could be avoided each year in England if survival rates matched the best in Europe," he said.
"Whilst we have made good progress in the last decade, we are still lagging behind our international counterparts."