Because of people like you, our nurses can be there for people affected by breast cancer. Clinical nurse specialist Jane tells us about three calls made to the Helpline, sharing the variety of calls the Helpline receives.

Jane, who is wearing a headset to take phone calls, smiles while wearing a peach coloured top

I talk to people with primary and secondary breast cancer

My first call was from a woman with secondary breast cancer.

She had heard about the drug Olaparib and wondered if it would be suitable for her. Olaparib is a drug that helps stop cancer cells repairing themselves when they get damaged. It’s given to people with secondary breast cancer who have an inherited breast cancer gene (BRCA), but it’s usually only available on the NHS as part of a clinical trial.

We talked about the treatment, and the caller felt more informed and prepared to talk to her treatment team at the hospital about it.

Sometimes we can refer to other helpful services

My next caller was due to have a mastectomy and was asking about breast reconstruction. This is the creation of a new breast shape, or mound, using surgery. There are many different reconstruction techniques, to suit different needs and circumstances.

As well as discussing these options, I also explored with her the option of remaining flat, which happens to some women through choice, and others because they can’t have a reconstruction. This was something she hadn’t considered.

After we’d talked all this through, I put her through to our Someone Like Me team. They’ll put her in touch with a volunteer who has had a reconstruction, and another who has chosen to remain flat, so she can talk about it with people who’ve been in her situation. I also let her know about Flat Friends UK, an organisation dedicated to supporting women who have had single or double mastectomy surgery without breast reconstruction.

You can still call if you don't have a diagnosis

My last call was from someone who was concerned that she hadn’t been called for her routine breast appointment. She thought her mammogram should have been earlier this year. I explained that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, breast screening programmes were paused in March 2020, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading and to free up resources for the NHS.

The breast screening service has now started again and the NHS is catching up with the backlog. She felt reassured that it wasn’t likely that she’d been missed, and I gave her the number of her local screening service to check when her appointment will be. I reminded her to be breast aware, Touch Look Check regularly, and to speak to her GP if she noticed any breast changes or had any worries.

 

This article is from our Spring 2022 In touch newsletter. If you'd like to receive updates like this, plus other information on what's going on at Breast Cancer Now, be sure to sign up to recieve our newsletter by post.

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