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The majority (88%) of younger women with a breast cancer diagnosis are not being referred to a fertility clinic to discuss the possibility of freezing eggs or embryos ahead of treatment[1], according to new Breast Cancer Care research.  

The charity is warning this is leaving an estimated 5,000[2] younger breast cancer patients across the UK missing out on fertility care, despite cancer treatment potentially leaving them unable to have children in future.

Breast Cancer Care also surveyed 50 breast cancer oncologists, surgeons and nurses and found that over a third (35%) are not telling younger breast cancer patients at diagnosis how treatment could affect their fertility, leaving them completely unaware of the risks[3].

A third (30%) are also failing to adequately discuss fertility options with younger women with breast cancer so they can make informed decisions about their future fertility, while a quarter (26%) are reporting they do not have a clear system set up to promptly direct patients to fertility clinics.


Fertility Care for Younger Women with Breast Cancer: A Call to Action from Breast Cancer Care on Vimeo.

 

Catherine Coombe, 45, from South Wales, said:

 “I was diagnosed five years ago when I was 39. I was single and wasn’t offered the opportunity to speak to a specialist about preserving my fertility. Despite having a nursing background, I didn’t fully realise the damaging impact treatment would have on my fertility. This was never addressed. At such an overwhelming time I just didn’t think, I was only focused on getting the cancer out and getting better.

“It was only much later I realised the option of having my own children was gone and that has made moving forward from my diagnosis so much harder. Just having the opportunity to discuss options with the right people would have been invaluable in helping me.”

Breast Cancer Care also found that three-fifths (60%) of women are unaware that infertility is a real possibility when a woman goes through chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer[4].

Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care, says:   

“Our research shows that too many younger breast cancer patients are being denied the chance to preserve their fertility before they start cancer treatment. There are two clear reasons for this: many healthcare professionals are not discussing fertility options and clear referral systems are not in place.

“This is an unacceptable situation as breast cancer is a disease which robs many women of a chance to start a family. We urgently need all healthcare professionals to talk to women about their fertility options at the point of diagnosis.”

Grete Brauten- Smith, Breast Cancer Care’s Clinical Nurse Specialist for younger women with breast cancer, says:

“Some cancer treatments can cause infertility. A fertility specialist will be able to talk breast cancer patients through their choices before starting treatment and see if freezing their eggs or embryos is a viable option for them.

“The worry is that the results of our research are reflective of practice UK-wide. A consultation with a fertility expert might not mean a guaranteed pregnancy but we must ensure women have the chance of considering their options. Only then can they make an empowered decision about their future fertility.”

Breast Cancer Care is campaigning for all younger women to be offered referral to a fertility expert at diagnosis, ensuring they can make informed choices about their future fertility. Visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk/hiddeneffects to join the campaign. 

-ENDS- 

*CASE STUDIES AND SPOKESPEOPLE AVAILABLE*

 

Sheryl Plant, PR Manager at Breast Cancer Care

sheryl.plant@breastcancercare.org.uk / 020 7960 3532 

Notes to editors:

  1. Taken from the research: ‘Standards of Care for Younger Women; Results from the survey of younger women’ by Grete Brauten- Smith and Jennifer Finnegan-John. The survey was live from September – October 2013. 176 women aged under 45 and diagnosed with breast cancer participated in the survey.

  2. Around 5,600 women under the age of 45 are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK. If only 12% are directed to a fertility specialist (equalling to an estimate of 642 women per year) this leaves an estimate of 4,958 without the chance of discussing fertility options.

  3. Taken from the research: ‘Standards of Care for Younger Women; Results from the survey of healthcare professionals’ by Grete Brauten- Smith and Jennifer Finnegan-John. The survey was live from September to October 2013 and had 50 respondents, which included oncologists, nurses and surgeons.

  4. Taken from a poll of 1,024 of the female population by ICM. Fieldwork took place between 17th and 19th September 2014.

About Breast Cancer Care:

Breast Cancer Care is the only specialist breast cancer support charity working throughout the UK. We were founded in 1973 by Betty Westgate, who was herself diagnosed with breast cancer. In the ensuing forty years we have supported millions of women and their families through our face-to-face, phone and online services. We also provide training, support and networking opportunities to specialist breast cancer nurses, and Breast Cancer Care publications are used by the majority of breast cancer units throughout the UK.  We campaign for better support and care and promote the importance of early detection, involving people with breast cancer in all that we do. Visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk or call our free helpline on 0808 800 6000.




   
Post date: 21 November 2014

Alexandra Burke will be performing at this Sunday’s eagerly anticipated football match between England Women and Germany in aid of Breast Cancer Care.

The X-Factor winner and Breast Cancer Care Ambassador will be singing the National Anthem ahead of the special ‘Breast Cancer Care International’ match. Around 55,000 people will attend the match, the same number of people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK.

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Alexandra, who is currently preparing for her nationwide stage tour of The Bodyguard says:

‘I’m a huge football fan and am so excited to be welcoming the women’s team onto the pitch for the Breast Cancer Care International. It’s great to see women’s football drawing in big crowds and I’m wishing the team lots of luck on the day.’

Alexandra knows how cruel breast cancer can be after losing an aunt to the brutal disease.

‘Breast Cancer Care’s support services are a lifeline to people living with a diagnosis. One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, so it’s really important that everyone knows the changes to look and feel for when checking their breasts. Early detection can save lives.’ 

And the players are just as excited for Sunday. England forward Toni Duggan said:

‘It’s great that on a big occasion like this that we can also raise awareness of breast cancer and the great work that Breast Cancer Care is doing. This is an important game for us and we’re all really looking forward to getting out onto the pitch and I know we’ll be proud to wear the pink laces.' 

Members of the public will be able to support on the day through donating to bucket collections and will also be able to find out about our new Pass it on campaign, which is aimed at spreading our vital breast awareness messaging across the UK.

Tickets for Sunday are now sold out, but the match will be shown live on BBC2 from 2.45pm with the game due to kick off at 3pm. Don’t forget to tune in to watch this historic occasion and Alexandra’s performance.

Find out more about our Pass it on campaign.

Post date: 21 November 2014

Most younger women with breast cancer are not being referred to a fertility clinic before their treatment begins, even though some breast cancer treatments can cause infertility.

A Breast Cancer Care survey of women under 45 having treatment for breast cancer found that 88% weren’t offered the chance to see a fertility specialist.

This means up to 5,000 younger women a year in the UK may be missing out on discussing fertility options, including freezing eggs or embryos, ahead of their treatment.

Samia al Qadhi, Breast Cancer Care’s Chief Executive, said: ‘This is an unacceptable situation as breast cancer is a disease which robs many women of a chance to start a family. We urgently need all healthcare professionals to talk to women about their fertility options at the point of diagnosis.’

An important issue

Some breast cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can affect your ability to become pregnant in the future. Therefore, it’s important to discuss any fertility concerns with your specialist team before treatment. Your specialist team should offer to refer you to a fertility specialist to discuss the option of preserving your fertility.

Fertility guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that women should be offered appropriate procedures to preserve fertility if their cancer treatment may lead to infertility, as long as they’re well enough to have the procedures and this won’t worsen their condition. The guidelines also say that the usual conditions for deciding whether someone can have fertility treatment shouldn’t apply to women with cancer.

You can read more information about discussing fertility options before treatment, including a list of questions to ask a fertility specialist.

Lack of information

5712 Catherine Coombe, 45, from South Wales, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago at the age of 39. She said:

'I was single and wasn’t offered the opportunity to speak to a specialist about preserving my fertility. Despite having a nursing background, I didn’t fully realise the damaging impact treatment would have on my fertility.

‘It was only much later I realised the option of having my own children was gone and that has made moving forward from my diagnosis so much harder. Just having the opportunity to discuss options with the right people would have been invaluable in helping me.’

Breast Cancer Care also surveyed 50 breast cancer oncologists, surgeons and nurses. Worryingly, over a third of them did not tell their younger patients at diagnosis how treatment could affect their fertility, leaving them completely unaware of the risks.

‘The worry is that the results of our research are reflective of practice UK-wide,’ said Grete Brauten-Smith, Breast Cancer Care’s Clinical Nurse Specialist for younger women. ‘A consultation with a fertility expert might not mean a guaranteed pregnancy but we must ensure women have the chance of considering their options. Only then can they make an empowered decision about their future fertility.’

Campaigning for better standards of care

Breast Cancer Care’s Standards of care for younger women with breast cancer highlight the care and support that all younger women with breast cancer should receive.

These state that every younger woman should:

‘Be offered a prompt referral to a fertility specialist (even if they have no partner) to discuss the options for trying to preserve fertility before starting chemotherapy or hormone treatment. Every breast oncology service should have processes in place for prompt referral to a fertility specialist who can provide assisted conception. The referral should not depend on local in vitro fertilisation (IVF) funding arrangements. Women should be given information about the chances of success from fertility treatment and the possible impact of delaying breast cancer treatment.’

We’re campaigning for all younger women to be offered a referral to a fertility expert at diagnosis. This will ensure they can make informed choices about their future fertility.

Join our campaign

You can read more about the results of the survey in our press release.

Post date: 20 November 2014

Yesterday NICE announced they are updating their guidance to better support GPs and other primary healthcare professionals, and ultimately improve early diagnosis rates. In response Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care, says:

“We welcome any support for GPs and other healthcare professionals to refer patients with suspected cancer symptoms for tests. 

“We know that a delay in diagnosing breast cancer can, for some, adversely affect how successful treatment is. Every year around 12,000 people die from breast cancer, suggesting that many may be diagnosed too late. Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death for women so it is crucial we get early diagnosis right.

“GPs must remember that breast symptoms are not just about lumps - they can include a rash, puckering of the skin, inverted nipples or skin dimples. We want them to be confident about recognising all the signs and promptly refer them onto specialists for further tests.”


-Ends-

Sheryl Plant, PR Manager at Breast Cancer Care

020 7960 3532 / 07702 901 334

sheryl.plant@breastcancercare.org

Notes to editors:

About Breast Cancer Care:

Breast Cancer Care is the only specialist breast cancer support charity working throughout the UK. We were founded in 1973 by Betty Westgate, who was herself diagnosed with breast cancer. In the ensuing forty years we have supported millions of women and their families through our face-to-face, phone and online services. We also provide training, support and networking opportunities to specialist breast cancer nurses, and Breast Cancer Care publications are used by the majority of breast cancer units throughout the UK.  We campaign for better support and care and promote the importance of early detection, involving people with breast cancer in all that we do. Visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk or call our free helpline on 0808 800 6000.

Post date: 20 November 2014

5442 As the nights draw in during this winter, lots of us begin to feel more tired than during the summer months and start to struggle to find the same energy levels.

Most of us can hope to adapt to seasonal change pretty quickly. But for someone with cancer-related fatigue, it's a more difficult prospect.

When your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is affected by this type of fatigue, daily activities can seem impossibly hard whatever the season.

Common side effect

Cancer-related fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer and cancer treatment, felt by more than 70% of people. Around 30–50% are still affected by it many months or even years after their initial treatment has finished.

People tell us that cancer-related fatigue can feel overwhelming and distressing, affecting quality of life by interfering with the ability to complete everyday tasks, which take much more energy while your reserves are far less than before.

How we can help

Our free publications and other information resources can help you find different strategies to manage your fatigue.

You can order them all from this website: Diet and breast cancer, Breast cancer and you: diagnosis, treatment and the future, Complementary therapies.

There’s a DVD on eating well and being active after breast cancer, which you can also view online (see below). And you can read some tips for coping on our information pages.

Talking to others in a similar situation about how you are feeling can help. We have a number of individual support services that might be suitable for you.

We hold Living with Secondary Breast Cancer meet-ups around the country where people with secondary breast cancer can get together with other people living with a secondary diagnosis for information and support.

You can find out more about the potential causes of cancer-related fatigue and how to manage it on one of our free Moving Forward courses.

Mild to moderate exercise has been found to be helpful in reducing fatigue. You might find one of our Best Foot Forward walking groups is in your area.

Phone our Helpline on 0808 800 6000 if you’d like to talk about cancer-related fatigue with one of our team of experts, who all have personal or professional experience of breast cancer.

Watch the short film featured on our Eating well DVD here.

#hiddeneffects

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. To join in visit the hidden effects website.

Post date: 20 November 2014