Patients fighting breast cancer are not getting the pain relief they need, a charity has claimed.
Medics at Breast Cancer Care said 90 per cent of secondary breast cancer patients – more than 30,000 people – suffer long-term debilitating pain.
And they accused healthcare workers of giving “second rate” care to people with the condition.
Today, calls were made for doctors and consultants to promote palliative care at the point of diagnosis.
A poll of more than 200 people living with the condition, where the cancer has spread, found that more than half are in “excruciating” pain daily.
Because of the nature of the disease – which can be controlled but not cured – symptoms can vary, from severe muscle pain to flu-like sensations.
The charity’s findings, released today to mark Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day, also reveal that side-effects impact on quality of life.
More than three-quarters of those polled said they could not carry out normal activities, while 70 per cent said the pain had an impact on relationships and intimacy.
Experts at the charity said the main issue around pain control was a lack of access to palliative care.
Dr Emma Pennery, clinical director at Breast Cancer Care, said: “Many women with secondary breast cancer are afraid of palliative care because they think it’s only for patients at the end of their life. However, palliative care can have a significant impact on quality of life and can help to alleviate suffering.
Diana Jupp, the organisation’s director of services and campaigns, said: “We speak to more women living with secondary breast cancer than any other organisation and we know they feel their support and care is second rate. This situation is absolutely unacceptable.”
Edinburgh patient Lynn Crisp, 43, said: “Prior to my diagnosis I was getting on with my life and although I had aches and pains, I put it down to the time of year or having a young child. But when I was diagnosed and started treatment, suddenly there’s this whole new world of physical pain and discomfort you’re feeling because of the treatment. I was not prepared for these symptoms and there’s no respite.”
TREATABLE BUT INCURABLE
Secondary breast cancer happens when cancer cells spread from the first tumour.
The cells are often spread through the lymphatic or blood system to other parts of the body.
Usually secondary breast cancer is diagnosed some time after the primary breast cancer, but it can be traced at the same time or before the initial tumour has been discovered.
Secondary breast cancer can be treated but it cannot be cured. There are treatments that can keep the cancer under control and maintain quality of life, sometimes for years.
Brave Leon leads march through city
An Edinburgh teenager fighting cancer for the second time has led Scotland’s first March On Cancer.
Leon Rendle, who suffers from rare bone cancer Ewing’s sarcoma, joined more than 1000 people for the sponsored walk from Holyrood Park on Saturday.
The 45-minute night event, which led walkers up the Royal Mile, was part of Cancer Research and Channel 4’s Stand Up to Cancer fundraising initiative.
Leith Academy pupil Leon, 15, was diagnosed with soft tissue cancer in February 2013 but got the all-clear last autumn after chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant at the Sick Kids’ hospital. But this summer, tests revealed the cancer had returned. He said: “I’m determined to fight and proud to Stand Up to Cancer on behalf of all teenagers going through this disease.”
Stand Up to Cancer will end in a live fundraiser on Channel 4 on Friday.