Emma May appeal

Dr. Emma Pennery, CBE , Clinical Director

I’m Dr Emma Pennery. As Clinical Director for Breast Cancer Care, it’s my privilege to witness at first hand the difference our Helpline makes to the people who call. It’s important to me that I continue to take Helpline calls and I’m really proud of the wonderful support my nursing team and I give.


As I’m sure you will imagine, many people who call are feeling very distressed and anxious. I never forget that it can take a huge amount of courage to phone us, whatever the circumstances, and especially in the first hours and days after someone hears those words, “it’s breast cancer”. Such a difficult time, as perhaps you may know.

Many people tell me that as soon as they hear the words “you have breast cancer”, they can’t really take in anything else the doctor says. They usually remember some of the language used, but often just fragments, and rarely the full meaning or details. Often I hear from mothers saying how worried they are in telling their children that they have breast cancer.

I listen to the information they give me and ask questions to ensure I have a full picture. Then I can talk it through with them so they feel more clear and confident of questions to ask their medical team, and also what’s available for them.

And of course, we always encourage people to call if they feel anxious or frightened: it is never, ever, too much trouble.

I’ve taken calls from women with school age children who are dreading telling their kids about their diagnosis. Sometimes the children have never known them to be ill before and they didn’t want to worry them. They can’t hide from their children that there is something wrong, particularly if mum lost her hair through chemotherapy.

Deciding how to break the news of a diagnosis to young children can feel overwhelming, but we are there for people every step of the way. We can give practical advice as well as expert information, such as that contained in our booklet “Talking with your children about Breast Cancer”. It can be a great comfort to have the information set out in writing.

Every year 62,000 people in the UK hear the news they have breast cancer and we know many of them, not least people with school age children, feel desperate for emotional support and to have questions answered. Our Helpline is a lifeline to them.

Sometimes people call with questions that can be answered in a few minutes. But when someone’s just been diagnosed, our Helpline nurses need to spend time helping them through the shock. It’s why we take all the time it needs to talk to someone, but with each nurse handling around 15 calls a day, our current resources do get stretched.

With constant new developments in breast cancer treatment, it’s also very important that our Helpline nurses are kept up-to-date. Providing such a vital, expert service costs a lot of money, but we receive less than a penny in the pound from government and money is such a worry.

Quite simply, without help like yours, there would not be a Helpline. That is how important your support is.

And it’s why I’m asking if you’ll kindly make a donation to help our Helpline nurses today.

A donation today can help pay for a nurse to put one of our invaluable information booklets in the post. Your support can contribute towards Helpline leaflets for doctors and nurses in hospitals to hand out to new patients. A kind gift today will help cover the cost of a call to the Helpline.

With your help, my nursing team and I can be there for anyone sitting in a waiting room, feeling sick with fear that they may hear those words “it’s breast cancer.”

Thank you so much for your support.