Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

UK Asians 'fail to check breasts'

By Sabina Alderwish
BBC Asian Network

Asian women
Rates of breast cancer may be higher among UK Asian women

British Asian women are risking their lives by not checking for signs of breast cancer, a charity warns.

Macmillan Cancer support says Asian women are less likely than any other community to look out for early signs of the disease.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in the UK.

And it is thought that rates could be particularly high among Asian women, partly because of their failure to carry out regular checks.

I'm only 39, so I don't need to
Response from an Asian woman asked if she checked her breasts
Meena Shah, from Croydon, told the BBC Asian Network she discovered she had breast cancer through a routine screening before her 50th Birthday.

" I never thought I would have breast cancer because I use to work as a radiographer and I use to do mammograms," she said.

"I went there bravely, never thinking, and when they told me that I had breast cancer I was shocked."

Although doctors caught the cancer early and managed to stop it from spreading, Meena still had to have a breast removed - but a few years later there was more devastating news.

Daughter affected

Meena's 29-year-old-daughter Toral also found a lump on her breast.

Surgeons thought it was not possible for such a young woman to have breast cancer - but after a number of tests it was confirmed.

"It was a shock to me," said Meena.

"When I heard the news I said: 'Not her! I wish I had it again, but not her'."

Toral said it was because of her mother's condition that she examined herself regularly and found the lump in the first place.

Toral coped well with the diagnosis - until doctors told her she would need a mastectomy like her mother.

"It is part of your womanhood, who you are as a person," she said.

"I wasn't sure what they could do from a plastic surgery point of view - that is when I truly fell apart. I didn't know what to do."

Toral told the BBC Asian Network that every woman, no matter what age or background should check their breasts at least once a month.

She said there was plenty of information available, and women could seek confidential advice from their GP or practice nurse.

Reluctance

When the BBC Asian Network asked a number of British Asian women whether they were conscious of checking themselves the majority responded by saying no.

One women said: "I'm only 39, so I don't need to".

Another admitted: "It never comes into my mind".

Damyati Patel, from Macmillan, said the responses did not surprise her.

She said: "Asian women are shy in taking their clothes off and checking themselves.

"There are people who don't even go for screening when they get the letter.

"They need to take this seriously - otherwise who else is going to?"

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