Women who are unhappy with the size of their breasts are less likely to check them for any cancerous lumps, new research suggests.
And scientists found those who are conscious their breasts are too small or large are less likely to visit a doctor straight away if they do find one.
The findings, made by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University, suggest initiatives to boost self-examinations for breast cancer aren’t working.
Some consider checking for cancer ‘a threat to their body image’, psychologists concluded after surveying 384 British women.
And scientists found those who are conscious their breasts are too small or large are less likely to visit a doctor straight away if they do find one (stock)
Some 31 per cent admitted they wanted smaller breasts, while 44 per cent said they would prefer them if they were larger.
A third of these revealed they rarely, or never, checked their breasts for cancer – despite recommendations from the NHS.
Professor Viren Swami, author the study published in the Body Image journal, said women need to be encouraged to love the shape of their breasts.
He suggested doing so would be life-saving because it would allow doctors to spot cancer earlier, making the disease more treatable.
Figures show more than 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Britain. In the US, it is in the region of 250,000.
It is estimated one in eight women will develop the disease at some point in their lives – making it the most common form of cancer among females.
An image created by Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont, founder of the charity Worldwide Breast Cancer, has gone viral after being shared by a cancer patient on Facebook
Professor Swami said: ‘Our findings suggest that greater breast size dissatisfaction is significantly associated with less frequent breast self-examination.
‘For women who are dissatisfied with their breast size, having to inspect their breasts may be experienced as a threat to their body image.
‘Breast size dissatisfaction may also activate negative self-conscious emotions, such as shame and embarrassment, that results in avoiding breast self-examination.’
More than half of women in the study said they would visit their doctor immediately if they detected a change in their breasts during an examination.
But one in ten revealed they would delay seeing their GP for as long as possible – or completely avoid booking an appointment.
Experts recommend women check their breasts regularly for any unusual changes so the disease can be spotted early, increasing the success of treatment.
The NHS also encourages women to learn what their breasts look and feel like so an abnormal changes can be spotted early and examined by a doctor.
Professor Swami added: ‘Promoting greater breast size satisfaction may be a means of empowering women to incorporate breast self-examinations.
‘And promoting greater breast awareness may be a useful means of helping women view their breasts in more functional terms, rather than purely aesthetic terms.’
THE 12 SIGNS OF BREAST CANCER THAT WOMEN MUST KNOW
Thick mass: A sudden thickening of the breast tissue can be a sign of a serious underlying condition such as lobular or inflammatory breast cancer
Indentation: Some people notice a dip, or dent, in the breast. This can be because the cancer is tethered to the breast tissue and so pulls it inwards
Skin erosion: In rare cases cancer that is growing under the skin can break through and create a wound
Heat or redness: If the breast feels warm to touch or there’s redness one-third of the breast, it can be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer
New fluid: Spontaneous nipple discharge on one side, which may be blood stained, brown or clear, might mean there is something in the breast that is causing irritation
Dimpling: Dimpled skin is a common sign of inflammatory breast cancer
Bump: A localised swelling, bulge or bump on the breast should always be investigated
Growing vein: Changes such as dilated veins can be a sign that cancer is blocking a blood vessel
Retracted nipple: Developing an inverted nipple – i.e. not being born with one – which can’t be drawn out, may suggest a lump behind the nipple is pulling it in.
New shape or size: Any change in shape or size not associated with the menstrual cycle should be investigated
Orange peel skin: Skin that has ridges or appears pitted, like the skin of an orange, can be caused by a build up of fluid in the breast
Invisible lump: Even there are many other symptoms, it’s crucial to always check your breasts for lumps. A cancerous lump often feels hard and immovable like a lemon seed