Back to news

One in three women who get breast cancer are over 70 - don't assume you're past it

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in England with around 41,200 women diagnosed each year. Locally in Lewisham around 150 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year[i].

The older you are, the more likely you are to get it. One in three women who get breast cancer are aged 70 and over. If breast cancer is detected early, it is more treatable. Finding it early could save your life.

It is important to be breast aware – get to know how your breasts look and feel normally, so that you'll find it easier to spot something unusual. Your local GP will recommend you feel the whole of your breasts and your armpits to see if anything seems different. If you notice an unusual change go and see your GP.

Dr Esther Appleby, GP Macmillan Lead for Cancer in Lewisham said: "If you notice anything of concern in your breasts then it is important to see your GP to get it checked. This includes lumps in the breast or arm pit, or changes in the skin or nipple or appearance. It may be possible for your GP to reassure you or they may refer you for investigation. If it does turn out to be cancer then treatment is far more effective if it's diagnosed at an early stage."

Possible signs of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in your breast or armpit

  • Nipple changes

  • Changes to the skin of your breast

  • Changes in the shape or size of your breast

  • Pain in your breast or armpit

Reduce your chances of getting breast cancer by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
    Keeping a healthy body weight is a great way to help reduce your risk of cancer.


  • Cutting down on alcohol
    Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a number of health problems and is linked with breast cancer. By drinking less, you'll reduce your health risks.


  • Looking after yourself
    Keep fit and stay active. Swimming, exercise classes, dancing or yoga – no matter what type of exercise, the more you can do, the better.

If you're over 70, you can ask for a free screening every three years. Just get in touch with your local breast screening unit to make an appointment.

Whatever your age, and even if you attend screening, it's important to remain breast aware. If you find anything unusual or notice a possible symptom, don't wait for your screening appointment – see your doctor right away to be on the safe side.

Read the stories of others who spotted the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and what happened next on the NHS Choices website.

[i] *Based on the annual average number of breast cancer (ICD10 C50) cases in Lewisham Local Authorities 2010-2012.