Project details

Researcher: Dr Fiona Kennedy

Location: University of Leeds

Project title: Assessing the feasibility of an online support service for secondary breast cancer patients

Key area: Secondary breast cancer research

The challenge

Research has highlighted a number of factors which significantly impact on quality of life for women with secondary breast cancer; these women often tolerate significant side effects for life-extending treatment in addition to the symptoms of their condition and the psychological impact of living with a terminal diagnosis. To improve quality of life for secondary breast cancer patients, Dr Fiona Kennedy aims to develop an online resource to support patients and help them to manage their symptoms. 

The science behind the project

Dr Kennedy and her team at the University of Leeds will collaborate with patients, medical experts and the charity Breast Cancer Care to develop and test an online resource that will support women with secondary breast cancer and help them manage their condition. 

The study will identify the issues that secondary breast cancer patients face and the ways in which they can be supported to improve their quality of life. To achieve this, patients will regularly answer questions about their symptoms via an online resource over a six month period and highlight the areas in which they require support. Their answers will generate tailored advice on how to manage their symptoms and where to go for further support. 

The team will investigate the feasibility of the online resource in two different settings:  

  • Clinically integrated: patients will be recruited via clinical appointments and their responses to the online resource will be added to their electronic patient record and monitored by their doctor. 
  • Remote patient community: patients will be recruited via online adverts and patient forums and newsletters. They will be able to print a record of their self-reported symptoms to take with them to medical appointments. 

They will also assess the effectiveness of the online resource through the evaluation of patient uptake, how frequently it is used over time and feedback questionnaires and interviews with the patients and clinicians involved. 

What difference will this project make?

The development of an effective online support resource has the potential to increase patient empowerment: giving them more control over the management of their symptoms, improving communications with their medical team and enabling easier access to appropriate support services. 

Following larger studies to explore in greater detail the impact of the resource, the online resource may eventually be rolled out nationally, either through hospitals or support charities such as Breast Cancer Care to improve quality of life for all secondary breast cancer patients.