Almost a fifth of women with breast cancer wait more than a month before seeing their GP about a breast symptom

Nearly a fifth (17%) of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer after spotting a potential symptom wait over a month before seeing their GP1, equating to an estimated 6,000 women every year in the UK, according to calculations based on new YouGov figures released today from Breast Cancer Care.2

A worrying 5% of women wait more than six months, potentially putting their lives at risk.3

The charity is warning that there is still more to be done to ensure that all women feel confident to go to their GP without delay.

A tenth (10%) of the 403 women surveyed didn’t have the common symptom of a lump, but other symptoms such as puckering or dimpling of the skin or redness or rash on the breast.4  In some cases these other symptoms can indicate a fast-growing type of breast cancer.5

The charity also found that almost a third (30%) of the 40 women surveyed who waited over a month to visit their GP believed their symptom wasn’t a serious issue.6 This suggests there remains confusion about identifying all the signs of breast cancer or knowing how important it is to report any unusual breast change as soon as possible.

Mother-of-one Fiona Lewis, 44, from Taunton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, she says:

“It was very odd, it was like my breast had a strange grainy texture and had hardened. It felt weird for a couple of months, but I just wasn’t sure what it meant. I spoke to my partner Andy about it and he said that if it felt different, I had to go and get it checked out.

“It was such a shock when I was diagnosed. I had two tumours and my treatment included a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy, Herceptin and Tamoxifen.

“For anyone out there who feels anything the slightest bit unusual or weird in their breasts I would say, get it checked out. Trust your instincts, even if it isn’t a lump or a common symptom, if it feels different, go to your GP.”

Other reasons why those women surveyed waited to see their GP included being too scared it might be breast cancer (20%) and nearly a tenth (8%) didn’t want to be a nuisance to their GP or medical professional.7

Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care, says:

“There have been many awareness raising campaigns around breast cancer symptoms, but our survey suggests that the job still isn’t done. The sooner a cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is likely to be so it is extremely concerning that some women are waiting more than six months to visit their GP after finding a breast symptom.

“Our survey identifies the main reasons for a delay could be the fear of being diagnosed and not realising a symptom may be breast cancer.

“We know how scary it can be to find a breast change but we want to reassure women that an early diagnosis of breast cancer can mean simpler and more effective treatment. We are urging women of any age to get to know their body by looking at and feeling their breasts regularly – there’s no right or wrong way – and if they find any unusual changes for them to not put off visiting their GP.”

The charity is encouraging women to get in the routine of being breast aware by following three simple steps:

  • Look at and feel your breasts so you know what's normal for you.
  • Do this regularly to check for changes.
  • Tell your doctor as soon as possible if you notice anything.

Anyone with questions can call Breast Cancer Care on 0808 800 6000 or visit

For further information, to arrange interviews or for full research findings, please contact:

Sophie Softley Pierce, Press Officer, Breast Cancer Care

020 7960 3505 (out of hours 07702 901 334)