Marie Keating Foundation, Irish Cancer Society and Europa Donna Ireland join together to call for more targeted supports for those living with advanced (metastatic) breast cancer in Ireland

On National Metastatic Breast Cancer (also known as advanced breast cancer) Day, the Marie Keating Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society and Europa Donna Ireland are calling for a greater focus on quality of life supports for advanced breast cancer patients.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that around 700 women present with advanced breast cancer every year, and up to 3,200 women are currently living with the disease in Ireland. This is a form of breast cancer that has spread from the original site in the breast to other parts of the body.

Naomi Fitzgibbon, Cancer Nurseline Manager with the Irish Cancer Society said, “A diagnosis of advanced breast cancer is a very different experience to a primary diagnosis. An advanced diagnosis can be absolutely devastating for a patient and it brings with it a whole range of more intense psychological, emotional and physical needs. There is a feeling of isolation, a fear for the future, and a lack of a network or support structure, as well as problems around fatigue and cognitive issues.”

“The uncertainty that this diagnosis brings means that living with advanced breast cancer is much more challenging and more targeted supports are needed to ensure a decent quality of life for survivors. A recent report by European School of Oncology highlighted actionable priorities in the areas of patient care, psychosocial assistance, access to information, financial support and workplace rights and it is vital that they are implemented.”

“The Society is currently conducting research with advanced breast cancer patients and it is hoped that the study will lead to a better overall understanding of quality of life in terms of fatigue and cogitative concerns of metastatic breast cancer patients. The research is also examining if services, like the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline, as well as other support services, will benefit these patients. Once the results are made available to us we will be reviewing them and looking at implementing the recommendations as soon as possible.”

Tara Byrne, Volunteer Patient Advocate, Europa Donna Ireland said, “We know from talking to women living with metastatic/advanced breast cancer that there can be a tendency to withdraw from others, including from those breast cancer survivors who’ve had a diagnosis of early stage disease, as there can be a lack of understanding of what it means to live with an incurable cancer. And so, women with metastatic/advanced breast cancer find themselves further excluded from social support that is vital to their wellbeing.”

Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation said, “This October, whilst we celebrate the advances in treatments and survival rates for patients with early breast cancer, it is vital that we shine a spotlight on the particular needs of patients with advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

Whilst cancer survivorship has for the first time been recognised as an important cornerstone of the new National Cancer Strategy 2017 – 2026, we urge the government and Department of Health and all stakeholders to consider specifically the quality of life needs of patients with advanced disease.”

Supports

Anyone with advanced breast cancer is urged to be aware of, and utilise, the supports that are currently available to them. The Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline is staffed by specialist cancer nurses and is on Freephone 1800 200 700. The Society also has 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals around the country and a Living Life Programme which is a peer-support programme for people who have recently been diagnosed with secondary cancer. For more information log onto www.cancer.ie

Europa Donna Ireland facilitates a private group on Facebook called Connect MBC Network (www.facebook.com/ConnectMBCNetwork) where women living with advanced breast cancer can chat confidentially with each other, share experiences, learn and find support.

The Marie Keating Foundation offers a Positive Living support group for patients living with metastatic breast cancer. Facilitated by Marie Keating Foundation’s Director of Nursing Dr Carla O’Neill, this group meets each month and discusses a range of topics which are of importance to patients and family members. The next Positive Living meeting will take place in Dublin on October 18th. For further details please call 01 6283726 or register on www.mariekeating.ie/events.

October is breast cancer awareness month. The Irish Cancer Society, the Marie Keating Foundation and Europa Donna Ireland rely almost entirely on voluntary donations made by the public and companies to fund free services for all breast cancer patients. Members of the public can help by hosting a fundraising Cups against cancer coffee morning this month or by sponsoring a duck at the Marie Keating Powering Pink Duck Race. For more information see www.cancer.ie/cupsagainstcancer or www.mariekeating.ie/ducks/