A top breast cancer nurse from Wrexham has urged women not to stop being on the alert for early signs of the devastating disease as they get older.
Heather Stephens, the specialist breast cancer nurse at Spire Yale Hospital, in Wrexham, spoke out during a fundraising day which netted £400 towards the cancer research cause.
She said it is vital that even in their later years women check themselves for lumps and other abnormalities as often as they did when they were younger.
At the special breast cancer awareness and fundraising day Spire Yale patients and their families shared their experiences of cancer, and experts in the field – including Heather – also delivered informative talks.
She said: “The fact is that the chance of women contracting breast cancer increases as they age, so even women in their 80s women should still be checking regularly and alerting their doctor if they notice anything untoward. The earlier the symptoms are detected, the higher the chance there is of survival.”
The government has announced that from next year it will extend the age bracket for women to receive three yearly mammograms to include all those aged from 47 to 73, rather than from 50 to 70 under the current system.
Heather, who has worked at Spire Yale for three years and been the breast cancer nurse for two and a half of those years, welcomed the change.
She said: “Women in higher age brackets are at high risk of breast cancer and even if they are no longer registered to have three yearly scans, they should still be vigilant and alert their GP if they find any sort of abnormality. Equally, for peace of mind, they can ask for a mammogram to be carried out at any time, just by contacting their doctor.”
Heather was among several speakers at the event held at Spire Yale to support the national Breast Cancer Care organisation’s 2015 Big Pink campaign to raise funds for further research into the disease, which kills thousands of women annually.
Each year in the UK 55,000 people are diagnosed, which equates to one person every ten minutes. The majority are women but it also affects men. Between 2009 and 2011, an average of 36% of male breast cancer cases were in men aged 75 years and over.
At the Spire Yale event about £400 was raised by patients, staff and friends of Spire Yale Hospital, who contributed raffle prizes and donated to the appeal to help find a cure.
Heather said: “This disease hits families like a tidal wave, not just the patient, but their spouse, children, family and friends, and it is vital we do everything possible to fight back.
“Today we have had a huge amount of support, not just from within the hospital but from families and friends of patients and former patients.
“Some of them devoted their own time to come in and bravely tell their own stories of cancer to the audience we had gathered here. I am so grateful for their support and for the way people have rallied behind us.
“Our own hospital chef was in at 5am baking cakes to be sold for the fundraising appeal and the child of one of our patients also brought in some cakes she had baked herself for us to sell.”
Spire Yale Hospital Matron Linda Jones said the event was a major success, adding: “I want to thank Heather for all her hard work in organising it, all the people who have donated wonderful raffle prizes and everyone who has helped us in the ongoing battle to raise awareness about the desperate need to beat breast cancer once and for all.”