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Breast Cancer Care blog

Fears about breast cancer coming back are often raised by people phoning our Helpline.

5413 Callers might say: 'I’m so scared it’s going to come back.' or 'My treatment has finished but I’m worried about every new ache or pain.'

Normal feelings

It’s normal to feel anxious about this. In fact most people will feel some degree of concern. The worry and uncertainty can feel all-consuming at first, although most people find that as time passes they think about their cancer less often.

Although it’s possible for breast cancer to come back, bear in mind that improved treatments and earlier detection mean most people don’t have any further problems.

Everyone’s risk is slightly different. If you want to know more about your own risk it’s best to talk to your cancer specialist.

When fears are common

People often call our Helpline when their hospital treatment has finished (although they might still be taking hormone therapy tablets, for example). At this time hospital visits usually become less frequent and you may not have so many chances to speak to your team about your worries. This can sometimes leave you feeling alone and frightened. 

Some people find that a significant event can trigger a fear. This might be a special occasion or anniversary, hearing about someone else being diagnosed, seeing or reading a media report  about breast cancer, attending a follow-up appointment or even passing the hospital where you had your treatment.

Support for you

Although it may feel frightening to read about breast cancer returning, having a better understanding of what to look out for and what to do if you notice a change may help you feel more in control.

Find out more about what to look out for and what to do if you notice a change.

It may also help to talk about your fears. To get in touch with someone who understands how you are feeling you could try our Someone like Me service, or our online discussion Forum or Live Chat sessions. 

We’re here to listen and to support you on the Helpline too, so if you’re feeling anxious about your future, please don’t hesitate to give us a ring on 0808 800 6000.

Watch the video below to hear Valerie, one of our volunteers, talk about having breast cancer, including her fears of it coming back.  

#hiddeneffects

We couldn't provide free breast cancer support services without public support so, to help tell the real story of what it’s like to live with breast cancer, we’re running a #hiddeneffects campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Find out more about the hidden effects of breast cancer and how you can get involved.

Post date: 20 October 2014

We have 100 tickets for the best seats in the house to this autumn’s must-see musical – Made in Dagenham.

Tickets are for the 4 November and cost £50 each (normal price £69.50) with every penny going to help fund our work providing urgently needed support to people with breast cancer.

5539 The musical is inspired by the true story of women who took part in the Ford sewing machinists strike in 1968 to protest against not being paid as much as men in the same roles. Based on a hit movie, Made in Dagenham is the uplifting new West End musical comedy about friendship, love and the importance of fighting for what is right.

Film and stage actress Gemma Arterton makes her musical debut in this West-End production. Filled with heart and humour, it’s the true story of an inspiring group of women who changed history in when they joined together and stood up for equal pay.

To book tickets please call 0345 092 0806 or email specialevents@breastcancercare.org.uk

Post date: 20 October 2014

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We are thrilled to announce that Breast Cancer Care won the Dove Self Esteem Award for our body image after breast cancer campaign at last night’s Body Confidence Awards!

The awards were held by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image at the end of Body Confidence Week (13-19 October), which saw the launch of Be Real; Body Confidence for Everyone - a new national movement for body confidence that aims to promote positive body image.

Our body image after breast cancer campaign was launched last year to raise awareness about the impact breast cancer can have on body image. Three women, who have all had breast cancer, posed alongside letters they had written to their body.

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Jill Hindley

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Heather Shekede

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Ismena Clout

The award was accepted by two of the models from the campaign, Jill Hindley and Heather Shekede.  

Ismena, who had secondary breast cancer, died last month, aged 40. Her friends and family sent a touching note, which was included in the acceptance speech. 

‘To us, Ismena was beautiful. She knew first-hand the challenges people faced in today's society remaining confident about their bodies under extremely difficult circumstances. But she drew upon an inner confidence that she knew exists within us all if we only seek it. And she worked hard to help others find their own inner strength in any way she could. And that made Ismena beautiful to all who knew her. We thank you for this recognition of her confidence and courage, her positivity and kindness. We hope her legacy continues and that others may draw from her experiences the confidence that is within them to see themselves as beautiful too.’ 

Hosted by Radio 1 DJ Jameela Jamil and introduced by the Campaign’s chair Caroline Nokes, MP and founding partner Dove, the awards were attended by key influencers within the Campaign’s three core areas,, as well as celebrities such as Gok Wan, paralympian Stef Reid, fashion commentator, Caryn Franklin and comedian, Viv Groskop. 

Ten awards were presented in total with the winners selected by a judging panel made up of experts, researchers and leaders in the education, health and advertising industries. 

Breast Cancer Care Trustee, Deborah Rozansky, who collected the award, gave her views on the need to address body image concerns that can come with breast cancer treatment:

‘Today, more than ever, we are inundated with images of men and women who have been made over, photoshopped and airbrushed to supposed “perfection”. Imagine too the impact this has on women and men affected by breast cancer. For women, breast cancer treatments affect those parts of the body particularly associated with femininity and female desirability, such as breasts, fertility and hair. 

‘Taking part in this campaign was an important decision for each of our three models. Jill, Heather and Ismena – ordinary people who were not professional models - bared mastectomy scars and their personal feelings about their bodies. They have touched many people’s lives with this campaign, encouraging others to talk about their own experiences of body image after breast cancer.' 

‘We’re calling on policymakers, service planners and commissioners to integrate assessing and addressing altered body image, intimacy and sexual concerns into breast cancer treatment and care. Our goal is that everyone should have access to the information and support they need, when they need it, to help them cope with altered body image and its legacy after breast cancer.’

Body Confidence Week has been developed by a partnership of charities, brands and influential trade associations, in response to the Reflections on Body Image report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Body Image published in 2012. This report highlighted that low body confidence is a critical public health issue, damaging lives and affecting more than 60 percent of the UK population.

Caroline Nokes MP, chair of the APPG on Body Image, spoke of the importance of organisations working together to help resolve body confidence issues: 

 ‘As the number and diversity of the award winners show, body confidence is a complex issue. So many organisations, like our award winners, are doing fantastic work in this space but the UK’s body confidence problem can’t be resolved by a single person or even a single organisation. 

‘All of us need to play a part – parents, educators, businesses, charities, and what is different about the Be Real campaign is that it recognises this. For the first time ever, we’ve come together with one shared aim. By working together we can and will build a body confident nation.’ 

Be Real has been founded in partnership with Dove and is coordinated by YMCA. It is sponsored by All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, bareMinerals, Debenhams, Facebook, Forster Communications, Government Equalities Office, N Brown, New Look, Superdrug and YMCA. It was formed in response to the 2012 Reflections on Body Image report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Body Image and responds to the growing urgency for change.

For further information visit: www.berealcampaign.co.uk 

Post date: 17 October 2014

To prepare for Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day on Monday (13 October), we asked people with secondary breast cancer how they deal with symptoms and side effects such as pain. Secondary breast cancer is when the cancer cells have spread from your breast to other parts of your body. It can be treated but is no longer curable.

Symptoms can be treated through palliative care, which is about managing the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of treatment. However, many people associate palliative care with the end of life - 70% of the 204 people who answered our survey, for instance.

5511 The earlier people with secondary breast cancer are introduced to palliative care, the better their quality of life, according to research. So it is worthwhile understanding more about the support you can get through palliative care when you've had this difficult diagnosis.

What is palliative care?

We know that talking about palliative care can be very difficult for people with a secondary diagnosis as well as for their families and friends. So it may be easier to think about it as wide-ranging support that can involve physical, psychological, spiritual and social aspects.

It's provided by healthcare professionals who are experts in treating cancer symptons and the side effects of treatments, such as pain, breathlessness and fatigue.

The palliative care team is often available in the evenings, during the night and at weekends.

Some of the areas palliative care covers are:

  • support and information for the patient and their family and close friends, including practical, financial and emotional
  • helping people with a life-limiting illness to maximise their quality of life
  • helping patients to get the best from any treatments, including adjusting drug dosages
  • symptom control and pain management
  • access to complementary therapies
  • listening to the patients’ wishes when planning their end of life and helping to ensure those wishes are carried out
  • helping families come to terms with the diagnosis and bereavement.


How to access palliative care

You'll need a referral from your specialist breast cancer team or your GP (local doctor). If you're struggling with any symptoms don't be afraid to ask for an immediate referral. It is OK to ask for what you need to help you live with your diagnosis.

But the level of service available varies; for example, 41% in our survey had never been offered a referral to a palliative care team.

So we have launched the petition Make secondary breast cancer a priority.

The more people who sign it, the better we will be able to lobby health policy decision-makers for better services and a clear care pathway for everyone with a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer. 

Sign the petition now

We're here to help

Our Helpline is here to offer emotional support and a listening ear as well as provide information.

If you find talking directly about this subject difficult but you have questions you can get in touch through our Ask the Nurse email service.

We have a Live Chat web-based facilitated discussion group for women diagnosed with secondary breast cancer on a Tuesday evening 8.30-9.30pm.

We also run Living with Secondary Breast Cancer meet-ups in various places around the UK.  

Visit our #hiddeneffects pages to find out more about Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

Post date: 17 October 2014

Bernard was diagnosed with breast cancer after noticing an itchy and tender spot on his chest. He's looking forward to spreading awareness about breast cancer in men at our Glasgow fashion show on Wednesday 12 November.

Bernard's story

4846 'I was 56 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a small spot next to my left nipple for a number of years which would occasionally get itchy and tender. I showed it to my doctor who said that it was nothing to worry about. Then one day in the shower the spot began to bleed so I went back to the clinic and saw a locum physician who referred me to hospital for a biopsy, following this I was diagnosed and had a mastectomy.

'I am not as outgoing as I used to be and I always check myself for lumps, which was something that I would never have done in the past. My family (my wife and three children) have always been close-knit and I could, and can, talk with them at any time. My wife is always there to reassure me if I need it.

'I have learnt that things can still be OK. When I was diagnosed I was booked to go on holiday to Ireland and 10 days after my mastectomy I still had a great week away in Ireland.

'I believe that it is important for men to be involved in breast cancer awareness as the fact men can also get breast cancer is often overlooked.'

Bernard will be on the catwalk on 12 November.

Find out more about The Show

Post date: 16 October 2014