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Belfast Trust makes Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge

7th December 2018

Secondary Breast Cancer PledgeBelfast Trust in partnership with two breast cancer charities is to reveal the findings of a unique study into the care of Secondary Breast Cancer patients.

The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge is a first in Northern Ireland and aims to improve services for local people diagnosed with incurable Secondary Breast Cancer (SBC).

Early diagnosis and advances in treatment mean that the majority of patients diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to be cured of the disease. However some patients are diagnosed with secondary breast cancer – cancer that has spread beyond the breast or armpit to distant parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver. Secondary breast cancer cannot be cured but it can be treated and controlled, sometimes for a number of years.

Belfast Trust and the charities Breast Cancer Now and Breast Cancer Care began engaging with patients and staff on the Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge in April 2017. The study’s findings will be presented on Friday December 7 and they will be implemented over coming months.

Caroline Leonard, Director of Surgery and Specialist Services at Belfast Trust said: “Belfast Trust has been recording new cases of Secondary Breast Cancer since mid-2016. Currently, our figures show 155 women still living with SBC. We estimate an average of 70 new diagnoses of SBC per year in Belfast Trust.  This figure will continue to increase year on year as the incidence of Primary Breast Cancer increases.

“The needs of a patient diagnosed with a Secondary Breast Cancer are decidedly more complex than those with a primary diagnosis.  This is a diagnosis of incurable breast cancer with a median survival of 3 years.  The treatments now available and offered to patients with SBC are ever more complex and intricate and several lines of treatment are now available.

“The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge will help Belfast Trust learn from the experiences of Secondary Breast Cancer patients. Their views will be vital to the success of our improvement process.”

Lyndsey Haighton is a patient with Belfast Trust and has been diagnosed with Secondary Breast Cancer. She said: “The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge has given patients like myself the unique opportunity to help make improvements that will benefit our own treatment and care. I’m really pleased to be involved in something that will help to ensure other people in this area, who have gone through similar challenges, have the best experience possible.”

Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care and Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now said: “We know from our specialist work in this field that people living with a secondary breast cancer diagnosis need care and support to meet their complex needs.

“Many tell us they feel invisible and ignored. Depression and anxiety can be common experiences among this group. They may be dealing with ongoing side effects of treatment, like chronic fatigue, living with uncertainty about the future and facing difficult decisions about end-of-life care.

“Despite this, so many women tell us that the support they had when diagnosed and treated for primary breast cancer just isn’t there after a secondary breast cancer diagnosis. The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge aims to address just this.”