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Breast cancer knowledge gap

New research reveals that the message about breast cancer is failing to get through to women from black and minority ethnic groups in the UK

Breast Cancer Care, a UK charity, has called for increased government funding to raise awareness of breast cancer after research revealed that women from black and minority ethnic (BMEs) communities are significantly less likely than white women to check their breasts for unusual changes.

In the first ever large-scale study into breast awareness in this group, which surveyed 1,830 women from the UK's BME communities, almost one third of respondents said they do not know much about breast cancer, while 43 per cent admitted that they had never checked their breasts ­- compared to just 11 per cent in the general population.

Breast Cancer Care's research manager, Karen Scanlon, described the figures as a ìwake up callî as they showed clearly that messages about breast cancer are not getting through to women in ethnic minority groups.

ìWith breast cancer incidence rates increasing across all communities, this inequality in such a fundamental area of health knowledge cannot be allowed to persist,î said Scanlon. ìWe need funding from central government and a collaborative approach from health practitioners and the voluntary sector in order to bridge this divide.î

More than half (56 per cent) of those asked admitted to never having checked their breasts because they did not know what they were looking for, while 53 per cent said that they did not know that the risk of getting the disease increased with age.

Some 45 per cent of BME women of screening age (50-70 years) said that they had never attended an NHS breast cancer screening. Of this group, 76 per cent said they had not attended because they had not been invited.

Breast Cancer Care has used the research to launch its Same Difference campaign ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The charity has made 10 recommendations as part of the campaign, calling for GPs and practice nurses to discuss breast awareness with older patients when they have their check ups. It has also called for targeted ethnic media to help promote understanding of breast cancer and breast awareness.

The charity has also recommended that the voluntary sector actively targets all communities and that the NHS' screening programme ensures better take up of invitations to screenings by women from BME groups.

Same Difference, launched specifically to tackle the knowledge gap in breast cancer in BMEs, will run in the national, consumer and BME-targeted press. The charity also plans to work with broadcast media, in particular with radio stations in London - where there is a high-density BME population.

2nd September 2008

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