Breast cancer risk to 1.4 million Londoners

Breast cancer risk to 1.4 million Londoners



  • One in four women in London don’t check their breasts and many would delay seeking help, even with symptoms
  • Londoners report difficulties accessing medical help while others aren’t clear on symptoms
  • Bupa and HCA UK launch specialist centres to give patients fast access to diagnosis and expert treatment for breast cancer
  • A first for a UK health insurer and hospital provider, this initiative will launch from January 2019 in London and Manchester 

Millions of women in London are putting their health at risk by failing to check their breasts and delaying seeking help for symptoms which could indicate breast cancer.

One in four women in London (24%) – 1.4 million – have never checked their breasts for signs of cancer or can’t remember the last time they did1, according to new research from Bupa and HCA Healthcare UK.


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, but despite survival rates of nearly 100% if diagnosed at the earliest stage2, women in London only self-examine on average every 53 days.

If faced with a symptom, more than two in five (42%) admit they would delay visiting a doctor for medical help, with 23% saying they would wait for up to two weeks and one in 10 waiting for up to a month.


Female Londoners are also more likely than others around the country to be put off completely from seeking help3, reporting that they’d worry about wasting the doctor’s time or would be embarrassed to discuss symptoms.


These concerns may be fuelled by lack of knowledge about the symptoms. Only 14% of Londoners could correctly identify eight symptoms of breast cancer such as a lump, breast pain or nipple changes*. And less than half of women in London identified that a change in skin colour/texture or a rash could be symptomatic of breast cancer.


Women in London also reported more difficulties accessing medical help for breast concerns than others around the country, with nearly one in five saying it’s hard to get a GP appointment (compared to one in seven nationally) and others being too busy or unable to take time off work. Just under a third of those polled (29%) in London stated that they would be more inclined to seek help for a breast related concern if waiting times for appointments and results were shorter.

Fast access to diagnosis and treatment
To provide patients with the fastest access to diagnosis, Bupa and HCA UK are partnering to launch Specialist Centres for breast cancer in London, which will offer an appointment with a consultant within two working days of calling Bupa, and all initial diagnostic tests completed in one appointment. If treatment is needed, it will be provided within 31 days of calling Bupa– less than half the time set out in national targets.

Patients using the Specialist Centres will have their treatment planned by an expert multi-disciplinary team, who will provide a treatment plan including access to genetic testing and advanced genomics appropriate to the individual. Patients will have support from Bupa’s Oncology Specialist Support Team and HCA Healthcare UK’s Clinical Nurse Specialists, and  emotional support services provided by Bupa’s team of counsellors via the telephone,  this support also includes one session for a close family member.
Julia Ross, Head of Cancer Care, Bupa UK, said: “It’s easy for our health to slip down the list of priorities, and sometimes it can be hard to remember all of the cancer symptoms we’re supposed to be looking out for. But early detection is so important to improving outcomes – so I’d urge women in London to make time to get to know what is normal for their breasts to enable them to identify any changes.

“As well as looking and feeling for lumps in the breast or armpit, changes in size or shape or changes to the nipple such as discharge, a good rule of thumb is to look out for any change that’s unexplained or persistent – and if you’re worried to seek medical advice.”


Miss Joanna Franks, Consultant Breast & Oncoplastic Surgeon, HCA Healthcare UK, said: “Early diagnosis for breast cancer is so important, as it can prevent patients needing to undergo complex surgery and drug treatments. 90% of women diagnosed at an early stage will be alive and well five years post diagnosis however, this drops to just 15% for those diagnosed at a later stage.

“At HCA Healthcare UK, we can offer all initial investigations within one appointment at one of our specialist breast clinics. Initial results will also be discussed on the same day, to hopefully offer peace of mind. However, if a patient does require further investigation then these will be carried out very quickly – with results received within two days.”


*Eight symptoms of breast cancer
1.     A lump in the breast
2.     A lump in the armpit
3.     Nipple changes (such as a change to the shape or direction)
4.     Discharge from the nipple
5.     Change to size or shape of breasts
6.     Change in skin texture (it may become dimpled or puckered)
7.     Change in the colour of the skin (it may look red)
8.     A skin rash (on or around the nipple)

For more information visit the Bupa website.

About author