Home » Women's healthcare » Tackling barriers to early breast cancer diagnosis faced by ethnic communities

Manveet Basra

Associate Director of Public Health, Inclusion and Awareness, Breast Cancer Now

Identify and dismantle barriers to early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer amongst ethnic minority communities and help empower and inform women about the importance of regular breast checking.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with one woman diagnosed every 10 minutes and incidence rates rising. At Breast Cancer Now, we want to remind anyone affected by breast cancer that we’re here to provide information and support — in every way we can, all year round.

Breast cancer diagnosis and disparities

In the UK, breast cancer is less common in women from ethnic minority communities than in white women. However, women from these minority groups tragically face a greater risk of late-stage diagnosis, lower survival rates and poorer levels of care.

Touch, look, check your breasts

Early detection of breast cancer is key; the sooner it’s diagnosed, the more likely treatment will be successful. All women must know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and get to know their ‘normal’ through regular breast checking. It’s as simple as ‘Touch, Look, Check (TLC)’ — touch your breasts, look for changes and check out any new or unusual changes with a GP.

Women from certain ethnic minority groups
were less likely to be aware of the screening
programme and the pros and cons of breast
screening than their white counterparts.

Breast screening saves women’s lives from breast cancer

Women from ethnic minority groups are less aware of breast cancer symptoms than white British women. There can also be barriers that stop women from detecting symptoms and seeing their GPs as soon as possible.

For example, in black African, black Caribbean and Asian communities, there can be fears, myths and taboos around breast cancer, which can deter women from breast checking, talking about cancer or sharing their diagnoses.

When it comes to breast screening, Breast Cancer Now research found that women from certain ethnic minority groups were less likely to be aware of the screening programme and the pros and cons of breast screening than their white counterparts.

Dismantling barriers and empowering women

Given the importance of early detection, we’re raising awareness among ethnic minority communities of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, plus the importance of breast checking and attending breast screening appointments when invited. We deliver public health talks in workplaces and community groups, provide resources in multiple languages to help break down information barriers and run targeted awareness campaigns.

We work collaboratively with the NHS and coalition groups, such as The Richmond Group of Charities and National Voices, sharing good practices and learnings. In England, we’re calling on the Government and NHS to deliver a national breast screening awareness campaign focusing on areas and communities where screening uptake is lowest.

Anyone seeking information or support about breast health can speak to our expert nurses via our free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 6000 or our ‘Ask Our Nurses’ email service. Visit: Ethnic communities hub | Breast Cancer Now.

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