One in three women 'too scared' to check their breasts for cancer
Report author says girls should be taught how to check their breasts by the age of 13However, other research suggests that checking too often can cause needless anxiety among those at low risk from the disease



10:57 GMT, 1 October 2012

A third of women do not check their breasts for lumps and bumps because they are scared of what they might find, a study has found.

Following the Avon commissioned survey of 2,000 women, research leader Professor Janet Reibstein suggested women should check their breasts once a month. She added that daughters should be shown how to check themselves by the age of 13.

Cancer charities say it is
important women know what their breasts look and feel like so that they
can spot any changes and catch any potential problems early.

Cancer: Breast checking can lead to earlier diagnosis but some studies suggest regular self-examination can do more harm than good among those at low risk

Cancer: Breast checking can lead to earlier diagnosis but some studies suggest regular self-examination can do more harm than good among those at low risk

However, earlier studies highlighted by the Cochrane Collaboration have suggested that
over-zealous self-examination can do more harm than good. It can
cause needless anxiety among women who are unlikely to develop the
disease, with most lumps turning out to be non-cancerous.

Prof Reibstein from Exeter University, insisted it was important to get women into the habit of checking their breasts when they were young as the risk rises steadily with age.

While one in 2,000 women will develop breast cancer by the age of 29,
one in 22 will have had it before they hit 60.

She said: 'As the Avon report shows, fear and anxiety do not always encourage better habits, especially if you don't see yourself at much risk.

'Breast checking needs to start young. As a young woman, not only are you becoming conscious of your body, but it's the point in your life when you set up many routines that will last a lifetime.'

Prof Reibstein pointed to the finding that 55 per cent said they would be more likely to check their breasts if it was a regular habit integrated into their grooming routine.


If you notice a change to how your breasts look or feel visit your GP, especially if you discover…

A lumpA change to skin textureA rash or crustingA change in appearance of nippleNipple discharge

Separate research from Breakthrough Breast Cancer suggests only one in 50 women can name five warning signs of breast cancer.

The YouGov survey of 1,000 women also found that fewer than half of women check their breasts regularly, with 57 per cent saying they fimply forgot.

Dr Sarah Rawlings, head of policy at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: 'These statistics should be a wake up call for women everywhere.

'We already know that early diagnosis saves lives and that's why it's vital that every woman knows what to look for.'

She added: 'One thousand women die every month from breast cancer. This is something that is just too important to forget.'

Breakthrough Breast Cancer ambassador Dr Hilary Jones said: 'Many women don't check their breasts because they don't think they are at risk, they don't know what signs and symptoms they are looking for, or they simply forget.'

Breakthrough Breast Cancer has produced a guide to what to look for which can be obtained by texting TLC to 84424 or by registering at

VIDEO: How to check your breasts by Embarrassing Bodies…