A spokesperson for Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, revealed on Sunday (25 June) that the former wife of Prince Andrew was diagnosed with breast cancer after attending a routine mammogram screening.
Ferguson was “advised she needed to undergo surgery, which has taken place successfully”, the spokesperson added. In the latest episode of her podcast, Tea Talks with the Duchess & Sarah, Ferguson shared that she was to undergo a masectomy.
But a worrying number of women don’t know the early signs of breast cancer. A 2019 study by cosmetics company Avon revealed that less than half (42 per cent) of women surveyed were confident that they knew what changes to look for in their breasts.
Meanwhile, a quarter of women thought that a lump was the only sign of breast cancer. The findings were from a survey of 19,000 women. Only two per cent of those who participated could identify 10 common symptoms of breast cancer.
Although 73 per cent of participants said they regularly check their breasts, 60 per cent admitted they would be hesitant to seek medical advice out of embarrassment or fear.
In addition, the majority of women surveyed were unaware that their lifestyle choices could put them at greater risk.
Almost two thirds didn’t know that regular exercise could help protect against cancer, while 63 per cent were unaware that alcohol is linked to a higher risk of the disease.
“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,” said Sheri McCoy, chief executive of Avon.
Dr Paul Goss, chairman of the Avon Foundation scientific advisory board and Director of breast cancer research at Massachusetts General Hospital, added, "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."
So, what are the signs and symptoms that you should be looking for?
Women are advised to check their breasts each month - aside from a lump, other signs of breast cancer include a change in breast size or shape, a rash or skin sores, nipple discharge, skin indentation, constant pain or a change in skin texture.
Similarly, swelling around the armpit or collarbone could be an indicator, as can a growing vein or inverted nipple.
If you notice any symptoms of breast cancer, the NHS advises that you see your GP as soon as possible.
After examination, your GP will then refer you to a specialist breast cancer clinic if they feel your symptoms need further assessment.
You can find more information on how to check your breasts for cancer symptoms here.