On the pulse 24 April 2015

  • Breast awareness promotion in the East London
  • YouGov poll shows women with symptoms of breast cancer can wait too long before seeking an initial appointment with their GP

Breast awareness events in Hackney and Tower Hamlets                                 Cancerkin’s East London team have been busy promoting breast health and awareness to local community groups in the East London area. On 17 April, we were invited to deliver a breast awareness talk to a parent’s group at Marion Richardson Primary School, Tower Hamlets. The presentation was received positively by the diverse audience who contributed their experiences and agreed on the importance of promoting the awareness message within their community.

On 21 April, LinkAge Plus and Osmani Trust collaborated to organise the Health & Housing Focused Event for over 50s in Hackney. The Cancerkin stall provided an opportunity for local older people in the area to learn more about the importance of breast health and to have questions regarding the national breast screening programme answered. The importance of this message for older women is especially vital with 80% of breast cancer cases in the UK now affecting those aged 50 or over.

Many thanks to Rumana Begum and Dave Barnard for facilitating these engaging talks.

1 in 5 women delay seeing a doctor a month after identifying breast cancer symptoms                                                                                                                Research by YouGov has shown that a fifth of women who were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer waited a month or longer before seeking an appointment with their GP, after spotting a potential sign or symptom. The findings also showed 1 in 20 of those women had waited up to 6 months before seeking an appointment with a healthcare professional. These delays can significantly reduce their chances of survival.

The study also considered the reasons behind these delays. Nearly a third of women who waited more than a month before going to their GP believed their symptoms were not a concern and one in five were too scared to see their doctor because of the fear that they might be diagnosed with cancer. A further 8% of women surveyed delayed going to a healthcare professional because they did not want to be a nuisance.

Approximately 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, with 65% of cases identified through symptoms. Of the 409 participants of the survey, 403 were women, and 17% of those who were diagnosed delayed visiting their doctor after noticing a symptom.  This translates to 6000 women every year in the UK. Moreover, 1 in 10 of the women surveyed did not find a lump –  the most typical indicator of breast cancer – but less common symptoms such as puckering or dimpling of the skin or a rash on the breast. In some cases these atypical signs may indicate a less common and more aggressive subtype of the disease known as inflammatory breast cancer, which accounts for 1 – 4% of all cases.

Samia al Qadhi, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, commented, “There have been many awareness raising campaigns around breast cancer symptoms, but our survey suggests that the job still isn’t done. The sooner a cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is likely to be, so it is extremely concerning that some women are waiting more than six months to visit their GP after finding a breast symptom. We know how scary it can be to find a breast change, but we want to reassure women that an early diagnosis of breast cancer can mean simpler and more effective treatment. We are urging women of any age to get to know their body by looking at and feeling their breasts regularly, there’s no right or wrong way, and if they find any unusual changes for them to not put off visiting their GP.”

Macmillan Cancer Support Director of Policy and Research, Dr Fran Woodward, highlighted the importance of early diagnosis, “UK cancer survival rates currently trail behind much of Europe. If we are serious about bridging this gap we need to address issues such as early diagnosis as a matter of urgency. As well as helping people to recognise cancer symptoms, we must also support GPs to make timely referrals and ensure people are tested as quickly as possible.”

Checking your breasts regularly can be vital to an early diagnosis of breast cancer, which can significantly increase your chances of survival. Men can get breast cancer too (though it is rare with only 400 men diagnosed with the disease in the UK annually) so it is important for both sexes to be vigilant.

 To stay breast aware follow these steps:

  1. Get to know your breasts and know what is normal for you by looking for changes.
  2. Feel your breasts for any changes (this includes the armpit and upper chest as there is breast tissue in these areas)
  3. Know what changes to look for (see signs and symptoms below)
  4. Do not hesitate to see your GP if you notice any changes
  5. Attend breast screening appointments if you are over the age of 50 (though some women may be called at 47 as part of a trial extension of the programme).

If you are over the age of 70 you may stop receiving screening invitations but you are still eligible and can arrange an appointment with your local screening unit.

 Signs and symptoms to look for:

  • Lumping or thickening of the breast tissue
  • Constant pain of the breast or armpit
  • One breast becoming bigger in size compared to the other
  • Puckering or dimpling of the skin
  • Nipples changing size, position or becoming inverted (turned inside)
  • Nipples developing a rash, crusting or producing discharge (bodily fluid)
  • Swelling that appears under the armpit or around the collarbone

For more information on this article please see The Guardian and Breast Cancer Care.

For more information on breast awareness please see Cancerkin’s Being Breast Aware booklet.

On the pulse 10 April 2015

  • Message from Cancerkin’s Founder and President, Santy Parbhoo
  • Can Roses Help Prevent Breast Cancer Aggressiveness?

Message from Cancerkin’s Founder and President, Santy Parbhoo

Dear Friend, Supporter or Patient,

I am unable to join in this year’s walk as I shall be away.  Last year with your help I was sponsored to a total of £10,000. Your help aids us enormously to continue our work particularly in the Cancerkin Lymphoedema Clinic which treats patients from all over Greater London.  Victoria Todd – our CEO and her team have worked hard and have successfully obtained major funds from Grant giving bodies including the National Lottery.  With the merger of Barnet & Chase Farm Hospitals, which have substantial Breast Units, with the Royal Free NHS Trust our services will be required even more.

In my absence, I hope you will give Victoria generous support so that the Cancerkin 2015 Walk target of £50,000 will be reached.

For those of you who are doing the Walk – my sincere apologies.  I do enjoy meeting you all – but that will have to wait until next year or at our next Event. 

Very many thanks for your help and continuing support.

Santy Parbhoo                                                                                                               Founder & President of Cancerkin 

Study findings suggest roses may help to reduce the spread of triple negative breast cancer                                                                                                                        A recent study has shown that using extracts from rosehips, the fruit plant of roses, can help to reduce the spread of triple negative breast cancer – a subtype of breast cancer that accounts for 10 – 20% of breast cancer cases. The term “triple negative” refers to the unique characteristics of this subtype, in that these particular malignant cells lack three key receptors – oestrogen, progesterone and human growth factor 2 – that are targeted in standard breast cancer treatment. As a result, there are fewer options to combat the disease effectively.

The study involved treating tissue samples of triple negative breast cancer cells with various concentrations of rosehip – a natural source of vitamin C used in tea and other foods – with the result that the rate of breast cancer cell growth was observed to decrease by half at the highest concentration. Further experiments have suggested possible mechanisms behind these results. Rosehip extract may inhibit the function of two key enzymes involved in triple negative breast cancer cell growth and notably the extract was found to improve the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin.

Dr Martin, the principal study investigator, commented on these findings saying with further study it is hoped rosehip may be used as a preventative strategy in breast cancer or as a combination in standard cancer therapy in the future.

For more information on this study please see Breast Cancer News and News Wise.

Cancerkin’s East London Newsletter, March 2015

A warm welcome to all our supporters! We hope this newsletter finds you well and our monthly update helps to keep you informed with the work underway at Cancerkin’s East London programme.

Cancerkin invited to speak at East London conference focusing on communication with ethnic minority groups on health issues     

HEAR Human Rights and Equalities Network for London invited Cancerkin to participate in a conference focussing on issues surrounding health inequalities in London and how to tackle this important issue; with particular focus placed on projects working with those from an ethnic minority background at the local community level. Victoria Todd (CEO) and Xanthe Roantree (East London Programme Manager) were invited to give a short presentation on the importance of clear communication when delivering breast cancer awareness messages to ethnic minorities. Our efforts to highlight the work we do with local communities to help combat high one year breast cancer mortality rates in East London was received positively from a range of voluntary and public sector organisation representatives.

We thank Christine Goodall, Coordinator of the HEAR Network for inviting us to take part in this insightful and dynamic conference.  Cancerkin welcomes hearing from any community organisation working in East London who would like us to deliver a breast awareness session.

Please contact Xanthe or Jacqui on eastldn@cancerkin.org.uk or call 0207 830 2310.

Current changes in motion for Cancerkin’s East London programme

The East London team are making changes to ensure the services we provide meet the objectives of the Programme. We have been looking at the feedback we get and whether the needs identified at the beginning of the programme are still being met by Cancerkin or by others.  We have recently reviewed our complementary therapies programme. It has been a great success and we are delighted to see that other providers are now following in our path. As a result we no longer see a need to provide sessions at St. Peter’s Church in Hackney and we have decided to withdraw from there with immediate effect. So our last session there will be on 16 April 2015. We will continue to hold half day sessions at the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, The Given-Wilson Institute in Plaistow and St. Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney. We plan to review the position again in 3 months’ time.

Our evaluation shows that our breast awareness work has garnered consistent positive feedback and has been effective in informing people about the symptoms of breast cancer, the importance of self-checking and of going to breast screenings. We would like to expand this work and we are currently looking at how to do this most effectively within our current resources.

If you have any queries or concerns regarding this update please do not hesitate to contact Xanthe or Jacqui on eastldn@cancerkin.org.uk or call 0207 830 2310.

Recruitment of Awareness Ambassadors

On 25 March, Xanthe Roantree (East London Programme Manager) led the training session for our Awareness Ambassadors. We had 6 potential recruits attend the session which focussed on health inequalities in East London and the importance of delivering the breast awareness message to local communities in the area. We were delighted with the response from our enthusiastic and articulate volunteers and look forward to working with them in the near future.