The Christie has launched a series of specialist awareness events for patients living with secondary breast cancer (metastatic disease) - the first events of this kind run by a UK hospital.
The breast cancer nursing team at The Christie decided to hold the events following feedback from patients during the launch of The Christie Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge (SBCP) in March 2014 and subsequent focus groups.
Secondary breast cancer is cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body and cannot be cured. The SBCP work last year was carried out alongside two of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Care, as part of a national initiative to improve services for people diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.
The Christie consulted with SBC patients and created a booklet for them detailing what they can expect from their care before, during and after treatment. The Trust set up a patient focus group following this to help it deliver its pledge to improve the care for its SBC patients.
Held at the specialist cancer centre in July, the first 'Living with Secondary Breast Cancer' day had over 50 patients and carers in attendance and was the first of three to take place. The initiative has been funded by Macmillan Innovation Fund in conjunction with Manchester Cancer.
Christie patient, Tricia Wilding, 52, from Bury has been part of the focus group since The Christie SBCP was launched. She said: "When I was first diagnosed with SBC a couple of years ago, it was such a shock. I had to find my way through coping with both the physical and psychological challenges of having a cancer that cannot be cured. I felt lost and bereft - isolated.
"This group has been a lifesaver. It touches a part of your psyche that medicine can't touch. At this first event I met a lady who had been living with SBC for 11 years and that meeting was the first time she had met others with SBC. It really gave me hope."
Claire Gaskell, Macmillan Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist, at The Christie, said: "The purpose of the 'Living with Secondary Breast Cancer' events is to educate patients, their families and carers about the services available to them, and provide a place where they can meet others going through the same thing.
"The focus group is made up of a very inspiring group of women who helped design the programme for the day. They will be feeding back on this last event and deciding on content for the next. "We also provide advice on managing common symptoms to help increase our patients' confidence in achieving a good quality of life whilst living with uncertainty. We are on hand to help attendees with both the practical and psychological challenges many of these patients can encounter.
"We want to spread the word and hope to see even more of our patients at the next event in October." Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with almost 50,000 women and 400 men diagnosed in the UK every year. Although many people are successfully treated for the primary disease, secondary breast cancer can't be cured, but it can be treated and controlled, sometimes for a number of years. The average survival for patients diagnosed with metastatic disease is now 2-5 years, although it can be much longer.
Although NICE guidance covers the diagnosis and treatment of advanced breast cancer, there are no specific guidelines about what services are required to support this large patient group who are living with active disease.
Patients interested in information on the next Living with Secondary Breast Cancer event in October should email Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org