On the pulse 26 November 2014

  • Christmas Tombola
  • The Big Give Christmas Challenge
  • Afternoon tea at Floris
  • Survey finds that most young women diagnosed with breast cancer are not given advice on fertility

Christmas Tombola
December is nearly upon us (how time flies!), and so here is a final reminder that our annual Christmas Tombola will be taking place just inside the entrance of the Royal Free Hospital on Wednesday 3 December 2014, from 10.00am to 4pm. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local businesses and supporters, and prizes include a meal for two from Zara, cinema tickets from Everyman Cinema, photo sessions at Snappy Snaps,  fish and chips from Oliver’s Fish and Chips, wine tasting at the Hampstead Butcher and Providore and much much more!

Alongside the Tombola, we will be running a stall selling small items, perfect for stocking fillers. There will also be a selection of Christmas cards to buy, Cancerkin t-shirts and plenty of mince pies! And, if that’s not enough, there will also be a (very well stocked!) second-hand book stall.

It’s also not too late to donate a gift! If you have any new items or second hand books you no longer want, you have until Monday 1 December. Simply bring the items into the Cancerkin Centre; we are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday. If you have any queries, please contact Holly on h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk or call 020 7830 2323.

We look forward to seeing you there for the start of the festive season!

The Big Give Christmas Challenge
On the 4, 5and 6December, online donations made to Cancerkin via The Big Give will be doubled.

The Big Give Christmas Challenge gives our supporters the opportunity to have any donation they make to Cancerkin doubled. Last year, we achieved our target of £10,000 and so we are pleased to let you know that we are taking part again this year.

The money raised from the Christmas Challenge will go towards our Breast Cancer Support Programme which provides a wide range of complementary therapies and exercise groups designed to tackle and alleviate the many side effects resulting from a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Please support us and help us continue to improve patient wellbeing during a very traumatic time.

The Big Give begins at 10am Thursday 4th December but the match funding runs out quickly. Please sign up your interest in giving this year by emailing h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk and we will let you know the best time to donate to ensure your donation is doubled.

Afternoon tea at Floris
Last week, Floris kindly hosted afternoon tea at their historic shop in Jermyn Street to award the prizes of Floris products to the top three fundraisers at this year’s Hampstead Heath Walk – Philippa Drew, Brenda Freedman and John Cunningham. After tea, we were given the opportunity to look around the Floris museum of perfumes and artifacts collected since their founding. This included their order books, where the names of people such as Winston Churchill, Vivien Leigh and royalty could be seen. It was a fascinating and very enjoyable afternoon, and we thank Floris for their support and hospitality.

Survey finds that most young women diagnosed with breast cancer are not given advice on fertility
A survey conducted by Breast Cancer Care has found that most young women diagnosed with breast cancer are not offered fertility advice, even though treatment could leave them unable to have children.

Some breast cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can affect the functioning of the ovaries or the quality of a woman’s eggs. This can stop the ovaries working for a while or bring on an early menopause. Therefore, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) fertility guidelines state that women should be offered appropriate procedures to preserve fertility if their cancer treatment may lead to infertility, as long they are well enough to have the procedures and this won’t worsen their condition.

Breast Cancer Care surveyed 176 women who were under the age of 45 and undergoing treatment for breast cancer. They found that 88% of these women were not offered the chance to see a fertility expert. By extrapolating this for the whole of the UK, Breast Cancer Care predicted that up to 5,000 younger women in the UK may not have had the opportunity to discuss fertility issues before their treatment. They also found that 60% of the women who participated in the survey were unaware that infertility is a real possibility when a woman goes through chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

The researchers also spoke to 50 breast cancer oncologists, surgeons and nurses. Of these, 35% did not tell their younger patients at diagnosis how treatment could affect their fertility. A third (30%) were also failing to adequately discuss fertility options with younger women so they can make informed decisions about their future fertility, while 26% reported they do not have a clear system in place to promptly direct patients to fertility clinics.

Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care, said: “Our research shows that too many younger breast cancer patients are being denied the chance to preserve their fertility before they start cancer treatment. There are two clear reasons for this: many healthcare professionals are not discussing fertility options and clear referral systems are not in place.

“This is an unacceptable situation as breast cancer is a disease which robs many women of a chance to start a family. We urgently need all healthcare professionals to talk to women about their fertility options at the point of diagnosis.”

For more information, please see Breast Cancer Care, BBC News Online or the Guardian.


On the pulse 12 November 2014

  • Christmas at Cancerkin
  • Madeleine Bunting 
  • 2013 statistics show the five-year survival rate for breast cancer continues to improve

Christmas at Cancerkin
We are still looking for items for our Christmas Tombola and book stall, as well as volunteers to help us run the stall.  If you have any new items you would like to donate (current donations include chocolate bars, a bath bomb, coffee table books and a game of ludo!) we would be happy to take them, along with any books in good condition for our book stall.

To donate, simply bring your items into the Cancerkin Centre and speak to a member of staff. If you have any questions, or would like to volunteer your time, please contact Holly on h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk or call 0207 830 2323.

Madeleine Bunting 
Madeleine Bunting, a Guardian journalist, gave a moving talk about her family’s involvement in WWI at Cancerkin on 11th November. Both her great-uncles were killed in the war, and Bunting’s talk revolved around letters they had sent home during the conflict. On a day we remember so many men it was very poignant to hear about Norman and Jack, and their letters – full of humour and love – were incredibly thought-provoking. As one patient said, Bunting “really brought the letters and brothers alive”.

2013 statistics show the five-year survival rate for breast cancer continues to improve
Statistics released from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that in 2013 the five-year survival rate for breast cancer in England continued to improve; 85.8% of patients diagnosed in 2013 are expected to live for over five years, an increase of 0.8% over 2012.

The statistics also showed the differences in mortality rates for women diagnosed at different ages. While 93% of women diagnosed between 60 and 69 years are expected to live for over five years, only 85% of women diagnosed between the ages 15 and 39 were expected to live for over five years, the same as women diagnosed between the ages of 70 and 79. 71% of women diagnosed between 80 and 99 are expected to live for over five years.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “It is encouraging news that five-year survival rates for breast cancer in England have increased, and more and more women are surviving the disease. This is, in part, thanks to greater awareness and screening leading to earlier diagnosis, and improved treatments as a result of continuing breast cancer research.

“However, it is a cause for concern to see that the figures for breast cancer survival for younger women (15-39) remain lower than the figures for women aged 40 – 69. This is in part because younger women tend to develop more aggressive tumours, and is a reminder of how much more needs to be done if we are to overcome breast cancer.

“Survival rates in the UK are still lower than they should be, and lower than the European average. We must not forget that 12,000 women and 80 men still die from breast cancer in the UK each year. We have to continue to show unrelenting commitment if we are to continue to see an increase in the number of people surviving the disease.”

For more information please see the ONS website and Breast Cancer Campaign.


On the pulse 6 November 2014

  • Spaces remaining for Remembrance Day talk
  • Christmas at Cancerkin
  • Research suggests that invisible tattoos could replace permanent ink tattoos in radiotherapy treatment
  • 2013 statistics show the five-year survival rate for breast cancer continues to improve

Spaces remaining for Remembrance Day talk
We still have spaces remaining for the talk on 11th November 2014, where Madeleine Bunting, a writer and Guardian journalist, will be speaking about her family’s experiences of WW1.

A few years ago, Bunting came across a box of letters of her great uncles who both died in the First World War. This began a journey into her family history, understanding more of the tragedy of this Highgate family and their remarkable response to their loss when they founded the Highgate New Town Clinic for children in 1924.

The talk will take place at the Cancerkin Centre and begin at 6.30pm, with a drinks reception from 6.00pm. The talk is free to attend. To book your place, please contact me on h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk or 0207 830 2323.

Christmas at Cancerkin
Christmas is creeping ever closer and a date has been set for our annual Christmas tombola! It will take place on Wednesday 3rd December 2013, just inside the entrance of the Royal Free Hospital, and we would welcome any suitable new items that you would like to donate.

We will be running a book stall alongside the tombola and so we are also looking for any books in a good condition. To donate either books or tombola items, simply bring them into the Centre next time you visit.

We are also looking for volunteers to help run the stall. We will need helpers from 9.00am to 4.00pm on the 3rd December, and if you have able to volunteer for a couple of hours between those times we would love to hear from you.

If you have any questions about donating items or volunteering your time, please contact me at h.lovering@cancerkin.org.uk or by calling 020 7830 2323.

Christmas at Cancerkin also means we are selling Christmas cards again. We have three festive designs, each of which we are selling, very reasonably, at £3 for a pack of 10. To see the selection, or to purchase cards, simply drop into the Cancerkin Centre anytime Monday-Friday, from 9am – 5.30pm, and we will be happy to help.

Research suggests that invisible tattoos could replace permanent ink tattoos in radiotherapy treatment
Research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) has suggested that invisible tattoos could replace permanent dark ink tattoos currently used in radiotherapy to treat breast cancer.

Currently, permanent dark ink tattoos are used during radiotherapy to ensure that exactly the same spot is targeted at each session. However, research has suggested that these small, permanent marks continue to remind patients of their breast cancer, reducing body confidence and self-esteem.

It is also more difficult to spot these tattoos in dark-skinned women, potentially leading to inconsistencies in the area being treated.

Researchers based at the Royal Marsden therefore carried out a small, pilot study of 42 breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy. Half of the patients were given were fluorescent tattoos, which are only visible under UV light whilst the other half were given conventional dark ink tattoos. All the women were asked how they felt about their body, once before the treatment began and again one month later.

The researchers found that 56% of the women who had fluorescent tattoos felt better about their body one month after treatment, compared to only 14% of those who received ink tattoos. There was no difference in accuracy between the two types of tattoos and fluorescent tattoos only took slightly longer to carry out than the current ink tattoos.

Steven Landeg, a senior radiographer from the Royal Marsden, said: “These findings suggest that offering fluorescent radiotherapy tattoos as an alternative to dark ink ones could help ameliorate the negative feelings some women feel towards their bodies after treatment. It’s important to remember that body image is subjective and dark ink radiotherapy tattoos will affect patients differently, but we hope that these results will go some way towards making this a viable option for radiotherapy patients in the future.”

Evelyn Weatherall, 62, Surrey, was one of the study participants who received a fluorescent tattoo. She said:  “I’d asked if I could be part of any kind of clinical trial during my treatment because I’d read about how successful they were proving to be. My doctors told me about the invisible tattoos they were pioneering at The Royal Marsden hospital and I was more than happy to take part. I had lost my hair during chemotherapy and felt that I didn’t want another visible reminder of my cancer.

“I think I was one of the first to undergo this procedure and it really worked. There wasn’t a mark on my skin after the radiotherapy planning. I was going to a wedding soon afterwards and knew I’d be able to wear an outfit that didn’t make me feel self-conscious.

“It’s wonderful to think that I may have been a part of something that could become standard in the future.”

Professor Matt Seymour, NCRI’s clinical research director said: “With more than half of all cancer patients now surviving 10 years and beyond, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to reduce the long term impact of treatment on patients, including cosmetic changes.”

For more information, please see Cancer Research UK or the NCRI website.