Breast Cancer Ireland concern at low levels of reported self-checking behaviours

by Rachel Cunningham
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Rachel Cunningham

Breast Cancer Ireland has expressed concern that, despite a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer every 29 seconds around the world, just 34 per cent of the Irish women, aged over 18, survey check their breasts once a month.

These findings have emerged from an extensive body of research carried out by CORE on the self-checking behaviours and overall awareness of the eight signs and symptoms of breast cancer among Irish women.

The charity commissioned this research as part of an awareness and education campaign ‘MakeTime2Check’, to better identify knowledge gaps among Irish women and to determine the best possible spend of BCI funding into high impact, tailored outreach and education programmes across Ireland.

Forty four per cent of respondents said that they check their breasts only when they remember to do so, less regularly than that advised timeline of once a month, and 30 per cent of women who don’t check their own breasts claimed to be, “unsure as to what to look for”.

Nineteen per cent of women who don’t check their own breasts did not know how to properly perform a self-breast check, with 9 per cent of this cohort believing that this is something that should only be conducted by a trained health professional.

Younger women were less likely to check their breasts regularly, at 23 per cent, compared with 34 per cent of those in the 50–69 age bracket.

The charity has reported that, while 86 per cent of women were aware of a lump being a sign of the breast cancer, just 68 per cent were aware that skin issues such as dimpling on the skin or a rash around the nipple are also cause for concern and should be investigated further.

While the incidence of women checking their breasts monthly has risen from 26 per cent to 34 our cent, representing an increase of 160,000 women, Breast Cancer Ireland has said that much work remains in the effort to address these knowledge gaps and behavioural challenges.

CEO of Breast Cancer Ireland, Aisling Hurley, described the statistics in the report as “stark”. She  addressed all genders of people living in Ireland, stating: “Early detection of breast cancer is key, we urge everyone to learn all eight signs and symptoms associated with the disease and check your breasts monthly for any abnormalities.

“Please don’t wait patiently for a free mammogram if you notice any of the signs or symptoms, instead have any abnormality checked as soon as possible by your GP. We remember with great sadness, Sarah Harding’s passing at just 39, a young woman with the world at her feet, who was aware of abnormalities but devastatingly, she waited too long to have these investigated further.”

The eight signs to be aware of in self-examination are puckering of the skin of the breast, a lump in breast or armpit, a change in skin around nipple or nipple discharge, dimpling of the nipple or nipple retraction, unusual increase in the size of one breast, one breast unusually lower than the other or nipples at different levels, enlargement of the glands and unusual swelling in the armpit. For more information, visit

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