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2011 National Black Members' Conference
8 September 2010

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK. More than 45,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and the disease causes almost 12,000 deaths each year. Eight in ten cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women over the age of 50.

Black and Asian women are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread than white women, according to a research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute Conference in October 2009 in Birmingham.

In a study of breast cancer incidence and survival; in more than 35,000 women in South East England, 17 per cent of Pakistani women and 15 per cent of Black African women were diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread. This compared with 7 per cent of white women, who were the group most likely to be diagnosed with the disease overall.

Dr Rebecca Bowen the author of the study said that 25 per cent of all cases diagnosed in Hackney during the study period were in women aged 45 or younger. However this figure rose to 45 percent amongst the Black population in Hackney.

She said “It is important that we use the information learnt from this stufy to raise awareness of breast cancer risk factors and the importance of early detection among the Black population.”

There is a need for targeted health campaigns that aim to raise awareness of breast cancer symptoms amongst Black women and to encourage them to go for breast screening if these inequalities are to be removed. If breast cancer is diagnosed early, there is a better chance of surviving the disease.

Black and Asian women are more likely to die of their breast cancer. But there is evidence to suggest that this can be reduced with early diagnosis. Around nine in ten women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive beyond five years. This drops to around one in ten diagnosed at the latest stage – when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Chris Carrigan, head of the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) said: “Good quality data is essential to help understand and improve cancer services. The ground-breaking work of the cancer registries and the NCIN now enables us to effectively measure the effect of policies and interventions targeted at reducing inequalities for ethnic minority communities.”

Conference believes that it is important that all women, whatever their race, are breast aware, report any changes to the doctor promptly and attend screening appointments when invited – early detection is crucial for successful treatment.

Conference therefore calls on the National Black Member’s Committee to:

1.Work with Labour Link to lobby the Government to support the work of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) and provide additional funding for research into Black women and breast cancer.

2.Work with community groups to raise awareness of breast cancer symptoms and the need for Black women to attend screening earlier.

3.Work with relevant bodies to lobby for funding and to raise awareness of the need for personalised prosthesis, wigs and other specialised equipment for Black women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

4.Work with the National Executive Council to campaign for leaflets and information regarding this issue to be produced in community languages other than English, that is accessible and available at local GP’s surgeries, as part of the requirements under the Race Relations Act , in the delivery of services to Black communities.