Page last updated at 00:14 GMT, Thursday, 16 April 2009 01:14 UK

Women 'unaware' of breast cancer

Woman having mammogram
More women are surviving breast cancer than ever before

Scottish women have an "alarming lack of awareness" about the symptoms of breast cancer, a charity has claimed.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer said it had carried out a survey which suggested one in six of those quizzed could not name any symptom of the disease.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Scottish women, with more than 1,000 dying of the disease every year and about 4,000 women diagnosed.

The Scottish Government said it would work to raise awareness of the cancer.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer said women needed to become more "breast aware" by carrying out regular checks and learning what signs to look out for, such as changes in the size or shape of the breast, changes to skin texture, or lumps.

The campaigners also called on women over 50 - who are more likely to be hit by the disease - to take advantage of breast screening.

Our message is show your breasts some TLC - touch, look, check
Audrey Birt
Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Audrey Birt, the charity's director, said that while more women were surviving breast cancer than ever before, early diagnosis was key to achieving the best possible outcome.

She said: "Our message is show your breasts some TLC - touch, look, check.

"Do this by regular touching, looking for changes and checking anything unusual out with your doctor and attending breast screening if you are over 50, as these are the best ways to identify breast cancer early."

"If you find any unusual changes or are worried by anything, you should talk to your GP straight away."

The charity highlighted the case of Dorothy Denham, 52, from Bonnyrigg, Midlothian.

Ms Denham, whose mother died from breast cancer, noticed a wrinkle near her nipple but as she could not feel a lump did not believe there was a problem.

'Warning sign'

However, she later decided to get it checked out - and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She underwent surgery and - as the disease was caught early - her long-term prognosis is good.

Ms Denham said: "I was lucky because, despite ignoring the first warning sign, when I did get diagnosed it was still early enough to remove the cancer before it could spread."

She urged other women to share any concerns with their doctor "no matter how small or trivial their worry".

The Breakthrough Breast Cancer research was carried out by pollster TNS System Three, who quizzed 542 women across Scotland over the age of 16 between 25 February and 4 March.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "It is important that people take every opportunity to take care of their health and wellbeing and I would echo Breakthrough's call to women to be more aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

"Information is available through the NHS and charities such as Breakthrough Breast Cancer Care, as well as advice and support.

"The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland will continue to work to raise awareness of breast cancer."

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