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In these blogs, we explore some of the biggest topics in breast cancer research. And look at how researchers are working to improve the lives of those affected by breast cancer.
We’re still trying to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer services. So, it’s important to build a detailed picture of how patients have been affected.
Although we don’t know the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer services and patients, we know that breast cancer treatment and screening have been affected.
For example, between March 2020 and May 2021, almost 1.5 million fewer women in the UK attended NHS breast screening. This is because breast cancer screening programmes were paused.
We don’t fully know what the effect this has had on support, treatments and outcomes. But researchers are working hard to better understand how the pandemic has affected people diagnosed with breast cancer, so that we can prevent it happening in the future.
Professor Anna Gavin, from Queen’s University Belfast is one of these researchers. She’s gathering information from around 2500 patients in Northern Ireland. The researchers are comparing people diagnosed before the pandemic with those diagnosed during this time.
They want compare differences between the groups to answer key questions such as whether there were delays in diagnosis, changes to diagnosis and treatment and how this has affected patient survival.
The hope is that they will be able to understand how services were affected so they can prevent this from happening in the future. The findings could also be applied to other countries and the wider UK.
This research could help people like Yvonne. Yvonne, from Derry, was diagnosed with breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was also 26 weeks pregnant with her daughter Maggie.
Alongside her treatment, Yvonne’s nurse arranged with an obstetrician that her husband could come in with her for antenatal appointments. This was only allowed because Yvonne was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite this, she still went through much of her cancer and antenatal care alone.
While Yvonne’s operations and chemotherapy sessions weren’t much affected by the pandemic, she’s aware that some women experienced cancellations and delays. She also didn’t have the usual information session before beginning chemotherapy, leaving her anxious and scared.
“I had to have a lot of my antenatal care and cancer treatment alone which was very upsetting at times, but I know that I was more fortunate than some women who had their diagnosis delayed, or treatment interrupted. Research like this is so important to understand how patients like me were affected by the pandemic and help ensure our experiences are learnt from.”
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