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National No Bra Day highlights the importance of screening and self-examinations to improve breast cancer survival rates

Posted: 11/10/2018

National No Bra Day, which invites women to go braless for a 24 hour period, aims to raise awareness of the importance of breast cancer screening, recognise the symptoms of breast cancer and encourage the public to carry out regular self-examinations in the fight against the disease. 

It is estimated that there are around 55,000 new breast cancer cases in the UK every year. This might seem a lot, but survival rates are improving and have doubled in the last 40 years. In 2015, the number of prostate cancer deaths overtook the number of breast cancer deaths for the first time. The improvement in survival statistics is thought to be due to increased funding into research and greater awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer through events such as National No Bra Day.

Taking place on 13 October every year, National No Bra Day is held during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Care’s The Big Pink fundraiser, although it has no affiliation with them. The event is thought to have started in 2011 and has spread mainly through social media, with many women using the #nobraday hashtag to campaign. Participants are encouraged go braless, donate money and wear purple on the day. It is also a time for people to help and support breast cancer survivors. 

More information about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as wells as tips on how to check your breasts, can be found via the following links:

This year’s campaign comes just one week after authors of a new study from Harvard University announced that regularly eating processed meats can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 9%. There are concerns, however, about the reliability of the findings. Whilst the review, which included data on more than one million women, showed a link between processed meat consumption and breast cancer risk, it is not clear if the food is actually the cause. The lead author, Dr Maryam Farvid, recommends cutting down on processed meat rather than eliminating it. Dr Gunter Kuhnle, associate professor in nutrition and health at the University of Reading, advises that the actual risk posed by processed meats was "very small" for the individual and more relevant on a population-wide level. He has recommended a follow-up of the study’s findings.

While there may be ways in which the risk of developing breast cancer could be reduced, the key message in the fight against this disease is that early detection, through screening and recognising the symptoms, saves lives. The NHS has estimated that breast cancer screening saves 1,300 lives a year in the UK. When diagnosed at an early stage, cancer which is small in size and has not yet spread is more likely to be treated successfully. Effective treatment becomes more difficult if the cancer has spread, making the chance of survival much lower. More than 90% of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their disease, compared to around 15% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of the disease.

Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “Death rates from breast cancer have been declining for around three decades, and this is likely to be the result of increased awareness, earlier detection through screening and better treatments. However, there are times when delays in diagnosis occur and there can be a number of reasons for this, including a patient’s lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms or their reluctance to see a doctor. As a solicitor dealing with cancer claims, I sometimes come across situations where the delay has been caused by a medical professional. For example, there can be delays in GPs referring patients for tests or treatment, or an error in the interpretation of the tests at the hospital leading to a misdiagnosis. There are clear opportunities to improve the statistics further. 

“Charity Breast Cancer Now recently called for greater investment into breast cancer care following the results of its analysis which suggested that the postcode lottery in NHS services could be costing lives. There are underperforming regions and the variation in breast cancer treatment and care across England is considered unacceptable. According to findings calculated by the York Health Economic Consortium, if all breast cancer units had the same quality of care as the best 25% in the country, over 1,000 additional deaths could be prevented every year. Although survival rates are the best they have ever been, there is still more to do. As well as continued financial investment, we need to see greater reflection on the processes put in place when things are missed.”

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