Find out more information about our campaign by reading our Q&As.
What is the campaign about?
This campaign calls for a step-change in the way we diagnose, treat, support and care for people living with secondary breast cancer.
For years, we have been campaigning for improvements to the treatment and support people living with secondary breast cancer receive. However, progress has been too slow. We know we need urgency from Governments and health bodies across the UK.
That’s why we launched Unsurvivors, a campaign which highlights that 11,500 people still die from breast cancer every year in the UK and demands urgent change so that everyone with secondary breast cancer can live well for as long as possible. The campaign highlights the incurable nature of secondary breast cancer, shines a light on the experiences of people living with the disease, and sets out the urgent action needed to improve the way we diagnose, treatment and support those living with secondary breast cancer.
How did we develop our policy recommendations?
We conducted the largest ever UK survey of people living with secondary breast cancer to understand their experiences, needs and priorities. 2,102 people responded and shared their views with us, which is helping us to focus and direct our influencing and campaigning work. The survey showed that many people with secondary breast cancer experience delays in diagnosis, struggle to access the support of a specialist nurse and fear they won’t be able to access the treatment they need in the future.
We’ve used this insight to develop our key recommendations to improve secondary breast cancer treatment and support.
What does the campaign call for?
For those with the power to act to take notice of secondary breast cancer and take action to improve the lives of everyone living with the disease. Specifically, we are asking UK health leaders to:
- work with the NHS to support GPs to recognise the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer and provide a prompt diagnosis
- urgently meeting with Breast Cancer Now and other stakeholders to address the reasons why secondary breast cancer drugs aren’t always reaching patients quickly
- provide the necessary investment to recruit and train enough Clinical Nurse Specialists
- commit to undertake a national audit to understand the number of people living with this disease and their experiences
We have developed more detailed policy recommendations across diagnosis, treatment and support, and these can be read in the report.
Why is the campaign called Unsurvivors?
The campaign aims to call defiantly for recognition for everyone who is living with secondary breast cancer and cannot become ‘cancer free’, through no fault of their own. We want to challenge the idea that being diagnosed with or dying from secondary breast cancer is in any way ‘failing’ or ‘losing a battle’ – there unfortunately just aren’t yet enough effective options to treat the disease once it has spread.
As difficult as it is, if we are to finally see change, we need to talk about the fact that around 11,500 people still die from breast cancer every year in the UK. We feel passionately that the misconception that everyone survives breast cancer is holding back progress for those living with incurable secondary breast cancer, and this needs to change.
Despite so many years of calling for everyone to have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist, that’s still far from the case. Despite calling for a decade for the number of people diagnosed with secondary breast cancer to be counted by hospitals so that services can be planned, it’s still not happening. Despite calling for years for systemic change, we still have to campaign for access to new drugs for treating secondary breast cancer. Across so many issues, we know that people with secondary breast cancer feel forgotten and ignored.
The campaign name ‘Unsurvivors’ is not a label to describe how people are living their lives ― it is a term to try to get across that, for some, there is currently no ‘cure’ for their breast cancer and that we urgently need to do much more to support them to live well for as long as possible. To make this happen, we need to ensure that decision-makers take notice of secondary breast cancer and take action.
What progress has the campaign seen so far?
The petition has already secured over 16,000 signatures, all demanding urgent action to improve diagnosis, treatment, support and care for those living with secondary breast cancer. After the UK General Election, we will be publicly handing the petition in to health ministers.
There is, however, so much more to do to achieve the change we need to see, and this is a long-term campaign that we will be working hard to promote throughout the next year. As well as this petition, over the coming months we will focus in greater detail on the specific issues of diagnosis, treatments and support, to set out the policy change needed in each of these areas for people with secondary breast cancer across the UK.