Breast cancer
Breast cancer Pixabay

One in every four patients with breast cancer had to visit their doctor three or more times before they got a diagnosis, a survey has suggested.

According to the survey, as many as a quarter of patients are in the advanced or metastatic form of the disease, meaning cancer has spread through the blood and created secondary tumors in the bones, liver, lung or brain before they get diagnosed.

A breast cancer charity says the advanced form of cancer cannot be cured and patients stay in treatment for the rest of their lives due to "unacceptable" delays in diagnosis.

The Breast Cancer Now charity said there needed to be better awareness about the disease as about 35,000 people in the UK lived with the incurable form of breast cancer.

"For too long now, the worrying perception that everyone survives breast cancer has masked the heartbreaking reality for 11,500 families in the UK that lose someone they love each year," said the charity for the disease that affects at least 55, 000 women and 377 men in the country each year.

Jo Myatt, a 43-year-old woman, said she saw her GP five times over a number of years before discovering that breast cancer had spread to her liver and bones.

"People don't realize it can spread to other areas of the body and you can have nothing in your breast," said the woman whose symptoms began with missed periods and nausea before they became more serious and persistent, leaving her unable to move her neck.

Other common symptoms of breast cancer, according to Cancer Research UK, include unexpected weight loss or loss of appetite, swelling under the ribs or across the upper abdomen, severe or continuing headaches, altered vision or speech, feeling sick most of the time, breathlessness or a dry cough, loss of balance or numbness of the limbs, any lumps or swellings under the arm or breastbone or collarbone, as well as, pain in the bones (eg back or hips) that doesn't get better with pain relief.

Breast Cancer Now survey of 2,100 UK people with the disease found that just 13 percent of patients were told of the symptoms to look out for if their cancer spread and four in 10 patients felt their symptoms were not taken seriously before diagnosis, The Sun reported.

Calling for better support and training so GPs spot signs of the disease, Breast Cancer Now chief executive Baroness Delyth Morgan said her charity had launched a campaign "the Unsurvivors" for thousands of women who suffered a delayed diagnosis because of failings in care.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard from the Royal College of GPs, however, said GPs were doing their best in the direction of cancer diagnosis, but some symptoms could be "very difficult to interpret".

According to data, the figure for deaths from the disease is over 40,000 each year in America.

Suggesting that awareness is not enough, the Susan G. Komen Foundation launched in 2016 a "more than pink" initiative focused on further reducing mortality rates as a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer -- the most common cancer for women worldwide -- every two minutes in the US.