Black women are least likely to self-check for breast cancer according to new research and a lack of representation in awareness campaigns is cited as a cause.
Despite the great strides made in breast cancer awareness over the last three decades, new research carried out for The Estée Lauder Companies’ (ELC) UK & Ireland’s Breast Cancer Campaign sadly shows that Black women are least likely to self-check for breast cancer.
The research which surveyed 2,000 women and interviewed Black women and South Asian women under 40 years old revealed that much more needs to be done to increase self-checking rates and representation in breast cancer campaigns.
Among the most disturbing facts is that, of those surveyed, self-checking rates are lowest amongst Black women, with 76% not self-checking regularly. A quarter (24%) of Black women said they don’t regularly self-check due to lack of education from older female relatives.
With insights and corresponding research suggesting that cultural stigma is a key reason as to why self-checking rates are low in some communities The ELC Breast Cancer Campaign, now in its 30th year, appointed two new ambassadors, Founder of Black Women Rising Leanne Pero and GP Dr Zoe Williams.
“There is a lot of fear amongst Black women around breast cancer and we wrongly believe that it doesn’t affect us.”
The two new ambassadors joined the focus groups as part of steps to help spread awareness amongst under-represented communities of the importance of regular self-checking.
The research showed that representation [or the lack of it] is a key factor as to why Black women think breast cancer won’t affect them, with more than a quarter (27%) saying they never see anyone who looks like them in awareness campaigns.
Speaking on this Leanne Pero said: “There is a lot of fear amongst Black women around breast cancer and we wrongly believe that it doesn’t affect us. The data clearly shows that we are not feeling represented in awareness campaigns and that needs to change.
“I want to encourage all women, regardless of their age and ethnicity to prioritise their breast health and act if they suspect something isn’t right. I am living proof that you can survive breast cancer if you act early.”
Addressing the stat that 14% of the women surveyed said they don’t feel comfortable about touching their breasts, Dr Zoe Williams, GP and broadcaster, said: “I want women to feel empowered to talk about breast health – it should be part of your self-care routine and there should be no shame as breasts are simply just part of our bodies.
“I understand that there are barriers to self-checking amongst many communities and that we need to be speaking directly to these groups so that everybody feels confident to regularly self-check. The research showed that of those women who do check their breasts, nearly a third (30%) are unaware of the signs and symptoms to look out for. It’s not just lumps, there are other signs, such as irritation or dimpling of the skin on the breast or flaky skin in the nipple area.
“If you notice any unusual changes, it’s important to contact your GP as soon as possible.”
How to self-check for breast cancer: signs and symptoms to look out for
The ELC UK & Ireland’s Breast Cancer Campaign has partnered with Breast Cancer Now to create a self-check leaflet that illustrates the signs and symptoms to look out for when checking your breasts.