Belfast Trust, in partnership with two breast cancer charities, has revealed the findings of a unique study into the care of secondary breast cancer patients.

The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge is a first in Northern Ireland and aims to improve services for local people diagnosed with incurable secondary breast cancer.

Early diagnosis and advances in treatment mean that the majority of patients diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to be cured of the disease. However some patients are diagnosed with secondary breast cancer – cancer that has spread beyond the breast or armpit to distant parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver. Secondary breast cancer cannot be cured but it can be treated and controlled, sometimes for a number of years.

Belfast Trust and the charities Breast Cancer Now and Breast Cancer Care began engaging with patients and staff on the Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge in April 2017. The study’s findings will be implemented over coming months.

Caroline Leonard, Director of Surgery and Specialist Services at Belfast Trust, said, ‘Belfast Trust has been recording new cases of secondary breast cancer since mid-2016. Currently, our figures show that 155 women still living with secondary breast cancer. We estimate an average of 70 new diagnoses of secondary breast cancer per year in Belfast Trust. This figure will continue to increase year-on-year as the incidence of primary breast cancer increases.

‘The needs of a patient diagnosed with a secondary breast cancer are decidedly more complex than those with a primary diagnosis. This is a diagnosis of incurable breast cancer with a median survival of three years. The treatments now available and offered to patients with secondary breast cancer are ever more complex and intricate and several lines of treatment are now available.

‘The Secondary Breast Cancer Pledge will help Belfast Trust learn from the experiences of secondary breast cancer patients. Their views will be vital to the success of our improvement process.’

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