Page last updated at 23:00 GMT, Saturday, 13 September 2008 00:00 UK

Many women 'do not check breasts'

Breast examination
Women should check for signs of change

Only 35% of women regularly check their breasts for signs of cancer - and 23% seldom or never do, a survey suggests.

The charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer surveyed 2,005 women aged between 18 and 64.

Over a third (37%) who reported not checking their breasts regularly said they did not know how to check - or what to look out for.

Nearly 46,000 UK women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year - making it the UK's most common form of cancer.

Size or shape - for instance, one breast larger or lower than the other
Skin texture - such as puckering or dimpling of the skin
Appearance or direction of nipple - one nipple might become inverted
Discharge - one or both nipples might discharge a blood-stained liquid
Rash or crusting of the nipple or surrounding area
Lump in the breast or armpit
Lumpy area or unusual thickening of breast tissue that doesn't go away after your period
Pain in part of the breast or armpit that is unrelated to periods

Breakthrough is launching a campaign to encourage more women to check their breasts regularly for changes, and to report anything suspicious to their doctor.

Early diagnosis of breast cancer offers the best chance of successful treatment.

Dr Sarah Cant, from Breakthrough, said: "We know that the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the more likely it is that treatment will be successful.

"Checking your breasts isn’t complicated and there’s no need to follow a fancy routine.

"Just be familiar with how they look and feel normally."

The Breakthrough survey revealed widespread confusion over what signs to look out for when examining the breasts.

The majority of women (88%) recognised that lumps could be a possible sign of the disease.

However, only 12% of those surveyed identified changes in skin texture, such as puckering or dimpling of the skin, as a potential warning sign.

Just 7% knew that a sudden inversion of the nipple was something that should be reported to a doctor, and a mere 5% were aware that changes in the size or shape of a breast could be a sign of cancer.

In the UK, the focus is on breast "awareness", rather than more complex and involved checks.

Experts say there is no evidence that rigorous monthly "self-examination" reduces breast cancer deaths and it can lead to unnecessary biopsies.

Instead, women are advised to get to know what is normal for them, and feel their breasts regularly for signs of any changes.

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