Majority of women do not know early signs of breast cancer

Majority of women do not know early signs of breast cancer

The FINANCIAL -- Only two in five people (42%) are confident about recognising the changes to their breasts that could be a sign of cancer, according to a new survey of 19,000 respondents by Avon Products, Inc., the world's leading social selling company.

The findings also show there is a knowledge gap amongst women globally about what the symptoms are for breast cancer and how to lower the risk of developing the disease.

The World Health Organization estimates that breast cancer kills more than 500,000 women globally every year, a number that could be greatly reduced if cancer were detected at an earlier stage.

Despite 73% of respondents saying they look out for changes to the appearance of their breasts, many report that they aren't confident recognising the early signs of breast cancer. Moreover, more than half of those surveyed (60%) would hesitate to seek medical advice for a variety of reasons, including embarrassment, fear and not having access to a regular doctor.

The survey also found a lack of knowledge when it comes to identifying signs and knowing the risks of breast cancer, which may be due to a lack of information – 30% said that they haven't been given any information about changes to their breasts that could be a cause for concern. A quarter (25%) think that a lump is the only sign of breast cancer that can be identified without medical equipment. When asked to identify 10 common symptoms of breast cancer, only 2% managed to select all 10 correctly.

There is also low awareness of some of the important lifestyle factors that could prevent breast cancer, with almost two-thirds (64%) unaware that exercise could help lower the risk of developing breast cancer. Similarly, 63% of those surveyed do not know that alcohol consumption is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.

Over the last 25 years, Avon and the Avon Foundation for Women have donated more than US$800 million globally to breast cancer causes, educated 180 million women about this disease, and funded breast health screenings for nearly 20 million women.

The research comes as Avon launches its new Breast Cancer Promise, a renewed multi-year commitment to educating women about breast health that builds on its legacy of supporting the breast cancer cause. Avon will work with a host of educators, partners, health organisations and experts to deliver greater public awareness of breast cancer and make sure every woman knows how to take action.

Sheri McCoy, Avon CEO, said: "Early detection is crucial to fighting breast cancer, yet our survey found that women don't know their risks or what signs to look for. We want to change this lack of knowledge by using the power of our global network of women – 6 million Avon Representatives and more than 26,000 Associates – and our breast cancer partners, to educate women. Our Promise outlines our long-term commitment to ensure every woman is breast health aware, every day."

Dr Paul Goss, Chairman of the Avon Foundation Scientific Advisory Board and Director of Breast Cancer Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, said: "These figures show just how much work still has to be done in raising awareness of breast cancer, particularly its signs, risks and how to act on concerns about it. Awareness is essential, since it ensures that breast cancer is detected at an early stage. Early detection is the most effective way of saving lives, it is crucial to tackling breast cancer."