Every year, around 60,000 people are given the devastating news that they have breast cancer. Survival rates are better than ever – more than eight out of 10 women now survive beyond five years.
But this doesn’t tell the full story. For many women, their hardest moment comes when hospital treatment ends. This is a time when most expect to feel relieved, celebrate with their loved ones and move on with life.
Instead, many find they suddenly feel lost. The routine of hospital appointments is gone, and the future can seem frightening.
Long-lasting effects of breast cancer are often overlooked. But women may be struggling with anxiety and depression as they reflect on what they’ve been through. They could be concerned about a new symptom, and worry that it could be a sign of recurrence. Or they may develop long-lasting side effects of treatment, such as lymphoedema or ongoing pain.
When these concerns come to the forefront, women can be unsure of how to get back in touch with their healthcare team, or think their worries are too trivial to report. Although breast care nurses are always on hand, many patients will instead turn to their local GP or practice nurse to seek advice.
Breast Cancer Care’s Moving Forward resource pack is designed to help patients self-manage their symptoms and issues as they move on from hospital-based treatment. Already used by breast clinics nationwide, it can also support those in primary care in giving the best possible information and support to patients.
Covering everything from relationship issues and recurrence to returning to work and managing finances, the pack can provide women with a perfect starting point from which to start moving forward. It’s also a great resource for practice nurses, who may not meet breast cancer patients often, to refresh their knowledge and be able to signpost to support services.
Primary care is pivotal to providing first-class support for breast cancer patients who may otherwise feel they have nowhere to turn. By providing key information to these women, and giving them confidence to self-manage their concerns, practice nurses can help them to take that crucial next step in moving forward from breast cancer.
Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist, Breast Cancer Care