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Progress of the National Audit of Metastatic (secondary) Breast Cancer

Back in May 2021, the announcement of a new, National Audit of Metastatic (secondary) Breast Cancer (NAoMe) marked a landmark moment. It followed years of us campaigning alongside our amazing supporters.

The audit covers England and Wales and will address the current lack of data available on secondary breast cancer. The aim of the audit is to:

  1. Provide regular, timely evidence to cancer services of where patterns of care in England and Wales may vary
  2. Support NHS services to improve access to treatments and help guide improvement plans
  3. Guide improvements in cancer detection, treatment and outcomes for patients

The audit will also provide, for the first time, accurate figures on the number of people living with a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer in England and Wales.

In this blog, we look at progress since the audit was announced, and what’s next.

Progress so far

Since the announcement in 2021, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes.

In August 2022, the National Cancer Audit Collaborating Centre (NATCAN) was established, with the task of delivering 5 new national cancer audits, including the NAoMe, from October 2022.

In Spring last year, the project team carried out a scoping exercise to help shape the focus of the audit, including a survey which asked for views on the areas most in need of improvement in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people living with secondary breast cancer. We shared the survey among our patient and healthcare professional networks.

256 patients and patient advocates responded to the survey, which was a great response. Thank you to everyone who took the time to take part in this.

The survey also had responses from a range of healthcare professionals, including nurses, oncologists and surgeons.

In November last year, the audit published its scoping report, along with a summary. This reported on the findings from the scoping exercise, including the results of the survey.

Areas thought to be most in need of improvement included many highlighted in our secondary breast cancer campaign, including:

  • Timely referral/diagnosis
  • Access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Use of new drugs and timely access to treatments

As one purpose of the audit is to provide tools to help NHS breast cancer services improve patients’ quality of care, the report also sets out what it sees as priorities for quality improvement, such as:

  • Improving the data that’s recorded on secondary breast cancer patients in national cancer datasets
  • Increasing the percentage of patients who are supported by a CNS
  • Improving outcomes for people with a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer

These priorities will inform what the audit will report on in its annual and quarterly reporting. 

What’s next?

The first results from the audit will start to become available from Spring this year, with a ‘State of the Nation’ annual report due in the Autumn. The results will be available at a local and national level.

We’ve been proud to work with the NAoMe project team at the NATCAN, providing feedback as the audit has taken shape. And, while we’re excited to see the first outputs, this year will mark 3 years since the announcement of the audit. And it will mark 10 years since it was made mandatory for NHS Trusts in England to record new cases of metastatic breast cancer via the Cancer Outcomes and Services Dataset (COSD).

That’s why this week we’ve reached out to the audit funders, NHS England and the Welsh Government. We’ve reached out to discuss how they can make sure that the audit can deliver insight that’s vitally needed to improve the lives of people living with secondary breast cancer, as quickly as possible.

What’s happening across the rest of the UK?

The NAoMe covers England and Wales, but we want to see data on secondary breast cancer improve across the whole of the UK.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government made a commitment in its Cancer Action Plan, published last year, to improve data collection on secondary breast cancer. We’re actively monitoring progress on this commitment to ensure that progress is made.

In Northern Ireland, there’s currently an audit underway, announced last February and funded by the charity Cancer Focus NI, delivered by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.



Learn more about the NAoMe.

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