The Trust has signed up to the Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge, committing it to providing the best possible care to patients diagnosed with secondary breast cancer across its hospitals, including Whipps Cross, St Bartholomew’s and Newham General.

Improvements for patients with secondary breast cancer

Improvements were identified through patient questionnaires, and patients were also included in discussions to agree on the best way to go about implementing the required changes.

One significant request from patients was for more information about financial services, emotional support and lifestyle advice, and the Trust has committed to providing this by running monthly drop-in advice sessions.

Of the 50,000 women and 400 men diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, it is still not known exactly how many of these patients will go on to develop secondary breast cancer – cancer that has spread beyond the breast or armpit to other parts of the body. Secondary breast cancer cannot be cured but it can be treated and controlled, sometimes for a number of years.

Dawn Shelton, 57, from Ilford, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2005, said:

“It is such a good idea to get input from patients through surveys and meetings, as we are the ones who know what it is like to live with cancer.

“Having had cancer for nine years I’ve seen it all – the constant appointments, scans, blood tests, rounds of treatment, operations, hospital wards – but I’ve also enjoyed meeting many other people with cancer and we’ve always spoken together about our experiences.

“I know the pledge will make a difference as the consultants, nurses and doctors really listened to our five key recommendations and agreed with them all.”

Patient engagement

Catherine Wood, Senior Involvement Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer said:

“Patient engagement is at the heart of this initiative; we hope that by joining forces with Breast Cancer Care, we can make a real difference to the lives of people living with secondary breast cancer across the UK, and the friends and families that surround them.

“With the introduction of increasing numbers of new and improved treatments, many people can live for months and sometimes years with secondary breast cancer, but they do have very specific needs. In order to ensure their needs are met, and that the best possible care is provided, it is imperative that the voices of these patients are heard.”

Sylvia Ward, UK-Wide Services Manager at Breast Cancer Care said:

“We know from our specialist work in this field that people living with a secondary breast cancer diagnosis need care and support to meet their complex needs. Many tell us they feel invisible and ignored. Depression and anxiety can be common experiences amongst this group. They may be dealing with ongoing side effects of treatment like chronic fatigue, are living with uncertainty about the future and face difficult decisions about end-of-life care.

“Despite this, so many people across the UK tell us that the support they had when diagnosed and treated for primary breast cancer just isn’t there after a secondary breast cancer diagnosis and the Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge aims to address this.”

Jacky Jones, Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist at Barts Health NHS Trust said:

“We value feedback from patients highly to help us know what we are doing well and also what we could improve on so that we give people the best care possible.

“We are delighted that our patients told us our staff are caring and provide high-quality care and we are grateful to those who took the time to tell us about their experience and joined us to look together at ways to implement improvements.”

The Department of Health-funded programme builds on Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Service Pledge for breast cancer, which has revolutionised expectations for 30,000 breast cancer patients at more than 50 hospitals across the UK.