Knitted breasts used to fight cancer in older women

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WOOLLEN knitted breasts are being used by medics across South Yorkshire to encourage more women over the age of 70 to think about symptoms of breast cancer.

Acting as an “ice-breaker”, the woolly mammaries are being introduced by health workers as part of face-to-face discussions with older women to raise awareness of common signs of the disease, such as a lump or changes to the skin or nipple.

The initiative, which was officially launched this week, is being rolled out in care homes, at public information stalls and at other locations “popular with older women”.

It was adopted following new statistics which show that, in 2009, roughly a third of the 1,165 women in South Yorkshire who were diagnosed with breast cancer were aged over 70.

Dr Louise Merriman is a GP who works on behalf of the North Trent Cancer Network, made up of NHS organisations across South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire.

She said: “As women age it becomes more important for us all to get to know how our breasts look and feel normally.

“As part of our trials we’ve found using knitted breasts very effective in helping initiate conversations.

“Presenting the breasts in a light-hearted and tactile way we often find it puts many women at ease, making discussing a difficult subject a lot easier.

“Recognising a lump or anything different about your nipples or the skin may not seem like a priority but you should check regularly and go to your doctor as soon as possible if there is a change.”

Dr Merriman added: “The sooner symptoms are spotted, the more likely you are to get successful treatment.”

Ann Ashton, 70, from Wath-upon-Dearne, is a breast cancer survivor backing the project.

She said: “For me, the knitted breasts symbolise the importance of being aware of your body.

“Pay attention to your breasts, because noticing changes early on can save yourself a lot of trouble later down the line. At 70 life’s not over – there’s still a long way to go.”