Black women are 'least confident' in checking their breasts for cancer

Almost half of Black women do not feel sure how to check their breasts for lumps and other symptoms of cancer, according to a new study.

Compared to other ethnicities, Black women are least likely to feel like they know how to check, or what to look for (43%) and 15% fear being judged by others. 

The research also found that a quarter of women under 40 have never checked themselves for breast cancer – believing they are too young, don’t think it will affect them – or they are just too busy. 

Half of all women do not regularly check their breasts for signs of cancer. 

The study of 2,000 women found those aged 18 to 39 are the least likely to look for signs of cancer, with a tenth believing they are not old enough to suffer the illness. 

But a quarter admit they do not have the confidence to inspect themselves, while one in 10 put it off in case they find a lump. 

It also emerged women from South Asian backgrounds are the least likely to examine themselves compared to other ethnicities, with 40% admitting to never checking at all. 

Of the South Asian women polled who don’t check themselves for signs of breast cancer, more than a third said they forget or don’t know what they are looking for. 

While around one in twenty don’t feel comfortable checking themselves due to cultural reasons. 

Leanne Pero, breast cancer survivor and founder of Black Women Rising, says: ‘It worries me that this new research reveals that a fifth of women in Black and South Asian communities wrongly believe that breast cancer only affects white middle-aged women. 

‘While Black women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, they are more likely to develop aggressive, more advanced-stage breast cancer that is diagnosed at a young age and therefore they are more likely to die from the disease. 

‘I am living proof that you can survive breast cancer if you act early.’ 

The study was commissioned by The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) UK & Ireland’s Breast Cancer Campaign, which is holding its second ‘Time to Unite’ event, at 7pm on Wednesday 20th October, with the aim of being the world’s largest virtual self-check. 

Elizabeth Hurley will be joined by Alesha Dixon and Victoria Derbyshire, as well as breast cancer survivors including Leanne Pero and Lauren Mahon, as Dr Zoe Williams conducts a step-by-step self-check demonstration. 

The research also found that overall, 14% of all women never check themselves for lumps or changes to their breasts which could indicate cancer. 

And even of the 83% who do, a fifth aren’t sure what they are looking for. 

Female breast cancer is now the most commonly-diagnosed cancer worldwide -surpassing lung cancer for the first time in 2020 – with an estimated 2.3 million new cases. 

But one third of all women believe you can only get breast cancer in your 50s, and just under a third think they are too ‘flat-chested’ to be affected. 

Barriers to going to the doctor when noticing a lump or change in breasts vary – from not wanting to waste their doctor’s time, the fear of not being taken seriously, concerns that a female doctor won’t be available, and not wanting to know what caused the change. 

The research also uncovered that many LGBTQIA+, Black and South Asian women believe there is a stigma in their community around speaking about breast cancer as it just isn’t talked about; and, say there is a lack of representation in self-check resources. 

Eight in 10 believe there needs to be better access to tools and resources that feature a more diverse range of people in order to highlight that breast cancer can affect every body. 

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