More than half of the UK public do not know what secondary breast cancer is, despite the fact that it kills more than 1,000 women every month, a survey by Breakthrough Breast Cancer has revealed.

Out of around 1,800 respondents, just 45% knew that it means breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Twenty-six percent incorrectly thought it was when previously-treated breast cancer has returned to the breast.

The survey results also show that more than half of the population are not aware that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, while almost half think that just 7,000 or fewer UK women die from the disease each year, when the real figure is around 12,000.

Chris Askew, the charity’s chief executive, says it is “worrying” that the public remains unaware of how serious breast cancer really is, and noting: “This doesn’t have to be a disease that kills, however without more support, more awareness, more funding and more research breast cancer will continue to be one of the UK’s biggest killers”.

Alongside the survey, Breakthrough Breast Cancer has published its new vision to Stop Breast Cancer For Good, which centres on a stronger focus into the causes of and treatments for secondary breast cancer. 

Today also marks the start of breast cancer awareness month, a worldwide annual campaign involving thousands of organisations striving to highlight the importance of awareness, education and research. Support comes from a diverse range of companies, including Jo Malone, which is donating £20 per bottle of its Red Roses perfume sold during the month to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and Apple, adding the ‘Donate to City of Hope’ feature on iTunes to facilitate donations to the research and treatment centre for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.