One woman in five never checks her breasts for signs of breast cancer and women in London are the most complacent according to new research from Macmillan Cancer Relief as Breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close.
Women in London are twice as likely not to bother to check their breasts as their more vigilant Northern sisters, despite women in both areas being almost equally concerned about getting the disease.
More worrying still, the survey found that across Britain only 42 per cent of women aged 55 and over checked their breasts at least once a month despite being the age group most at risk - 80 per cent of all breast cancers occur in post-menopausal women.
One explanation for this could be that women just don't feel confident knowing what to look for and spotting it themselves, when asked what would reduce their fear of breast cancer nearly a third of women said they would like regular visits to a nurse to get checked like they do for a smear test.
Another explanation could be that women are still afraid of the 'Big C', despite the fact that 76 per cent of women now survive five years after a breast cancer diagnosis and this figure is rising. When asked what worried them most about breast cancer very few said disfiguring surgery (four per cent), the treatment (seven per cent), hair loss (one per cent) or physical pain (two per cent). The biggest single concern was cancer itself (38 per cent).
Dame Gill Oliver, Director of Service Development, Macmillan Cancer Relief, said: 'Some women are really concerned about whether they are checking their breasts in the correct way and this can put them off completely. The key message is for women to become familiar with their own bodies and to know what feels right for them. Being 'breast aware' means that women will quickly pick up any small changes which can then be investigated if necessary. Why not throw away your sponge and wash with soapy hands instead, then breast awareness will become part of your everyday routine.'