“Deborah agreed to take part in a trial as she was keen to help other cancer patients in the future. "If taking part in a trial means others might be helped then I’m very happy with that."
A study to see how well a way of encouraging older women with breast cancer symptoms to go to their doctor works
We know that this is an especially worrying time for people with cancer and their family and friends. We have separate information about coronavirus and cancer. Please read that information alongside this page. We will update that information as guidance changes.
This study looked at an intervention to increase awareness of breast cancer and promote early reporting of symptoms by older women.
All women are at risk of developing breast cancer. Older women are more at risk than younger women, but are more likely to delay going to their doctor if they notice a change to their breasts. Older women are also more likely than younger women to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a more advanced stage, making it more difficult to treat.
In an earlier study called the Promoting Early Presentation trial (PEP), researchers developed a way of
- Increasing older women’s awareness of breast cancer risk and symptoms
- Encouraging them to know what their breasts normally look and feel like
- Increasing their confidence and motivation to visit their GP if they notice any changes to their breasts
This intervention involves a discussion with a
We know from the PEP trial that having this discussion helps to increase breast cancer awareness in older women in a research setting. The aim of this study was to measure the impact of the PEP intervention for older women in the NHS Breast Screening Programme when it is done by NHS staff, not by research staff.
Summary of results
The research team found that the Promoting Early Presentation (PEP) intervention did increase the awareness of older women.
The research team trained 19 NHS radiographers to deliver the PEP intervention. These radiographers then offered PEP to 830 women having mammograms, and 551 women agreed. Of these, 457 women completed questionnaires at the time of screening and a month later. The questionnaires asked them about breast cancer symptoms, risk factors and factors that might affect their decision to go and see a doctor with a serious symptom.
789 women who were having mammograms but who didn’t have the PEP intervention also filled out the questionnaires.
When the research team compared the 2 groups one month after PEP, they found that those who’d had the PEP intervention
- Knew more symptoms
- Were more aware that increasing age was a risk factor for breast cancer
- Were more likely to check their own breasts for changes at least once a month
- Were more confident that they would notice changes
The research team concluded that the PEP intervention did increase the awareness of older women going for NHS breast screening.They plan to assess the impact of the PEP intervention 1 year after having a mammogram. We will update this page once these results are available.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the study. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Amanda Ramirez
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust
King's College London
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust
Medway NHS Foundation Trust
NHS Cancer Screening Programmes
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire