On the pulse 16 January 2015

  • Save the dates: Cancerkin Hampstead Heath Walk and Annual Lecture
  • Cancerkin promote breast awareness at Newham Council’s Green Street Health Event
  • NHS England’s five year strategy to improve cancer outcomes could give patients the power to self-refer for hospital tests

Save the dates: Cancerkin Hampstead Heath Walk and Annual Lecture
The dates have been set for 2015’s Hampstead Heath Walk and Annual Lecture.

Following very positive feedback after last years’ walk, we have decided to once again hold our annual walk on Hampstead Heath, on Sunday 7th June 2015. Over 200 of our supporters joined us for a very sunny Sunday last year, raising over £40,000 for Cancerkin in the process, and we’d love to see even more of you this year.

Our Annual Lecture will take place on Thursday 8th October 2015 and will be given by Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent cancer research charity.

Official invitations to both these events will be sent out nearer the time. Meanwhile, please email Jacqui at jmoneke@cancerkin.org.uk to register your interest in either event and ensure you receive all of the updates.

Cancerkin promote breast awareness at Newham Council’s Green Street Health Event
On 15 January, Cancerkin’s East London team attended the Green Street Health Event organised by Newham Council to promote the importance of breast cancer awareness. The event proved to be a huge success: we taught32 people how to self-check their breasts and gave out information to many more, which kept the team busy all night! Even the West Ham United mascot, Bubbles, received a lesson in how to check his breasts (as men can get breast cancer too!), which you can see on our facebook page.

Feedback from the event was very positive, with many visitors commenting on the importance of the breast awareness message and the lack of knowledge in the local area. We would therefore like to thank Zainab Shaikh of Newham Council for organising such a fantastic event and inviting us along.

The next East London Awareness Event is planned for 17 February where we will be holding a session at Age UK’s AgeWell Group in Dalston. If you run or know of a community group who would benefit from an awareness talk, please call the East London team on 0207 830 2310 or email eastldn@cancerkin.org.uk .

NHS England’s five year strategy to improve cancer outcomes could give patients the power to self-refer for hospital tests
A five-year strategy announced by NHS England aims to find new and innovative ways to improve all aspects of cancer service delivery, including prevention, detection and treatment of the disease.  Harpal Kumar, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK (and who will be giving our Annual Lecture in October), has been appointed as the independent chair of the Cancer Strategy Taskforce, which will work to implement these plans and explore new avenues to improve survival rates in Britain.

Currently, more than one in three people living in the UK go on to develop cancer, with half now living for at least 10 years. This is a huge improvement: 40 years ago, the median survival after a cancer diagnosis was just one year. However, despite these improved outcomes, the national survival rate in the UK is lower than the European average, with research citing late detection as a significant factor. “Too many people are diagnosed at a late stage so there is a huge opportunity to do better. The NHS is aiming to increase early stage diagnosis by 10 per cent over the next five years- equivalent to about 8,000 more patients living longer than 5 years after diagnosis,” says Kumar.

The strategy, set to be published this summer, will be piloted by Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, and will test new ways to drive quicker diagnoses across the country in areas including London, Manchester, Suffolk, Cumbria and Staffordshire. Projects will be led locally by NHS teams in these areas, and will trial different strategies to improve detection, such as giving GPs direct access to diagnostic tests, boosting the role of local pharmacists who can refer patients for tests and enabling patients to book their own appointments for diagnostic testing.

With forecasts predicting the number of cancer cases to increase by a third in the next 15 years, finding new ways to improve cancer services could have tremendous life-saving benefits for patients in the future.

For more information please see Cancer Research UK and the Telegraph.


On the pulse 8 January 2015

  • Young Women’s Support Group
  • Study shows breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 20%

Welcome to the first ‘On the pulse’ of the New Year! I hope you had a happy and relaxing festive season and we wish all our readers the best for 2015.

Young Women’s Support Group
The next Young Women’s Support Group will take place on Wednesday 14 January 2015 from 4pm to 6pm. The group will be joined by two Royal Free Breast Nurses, Tina Kelleher (Advanced Nurse Practitioner & Lead Nurse – Breast) and Rachel Mohammed (Clinical Nurse Specialist) who will be able to answer any breast cancer related questions. Victoria and Reema will also facilitate a general discussion around any thoughts and concerns you may have.

Our Young Women’s Support Group meets monthly, and focuses on specific concerns younger women with breast cancer may have. For more information on this group, or to book your place in January’s session, please contact Reema on 0207 830 2323 or r.ved@cancerkin.org.uk.

Study shows breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 20%
A study presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas has found that breastfeeding could reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 20%.

Earlier studies had found that breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing certain cancers, but the impact was thought to be relatively small. This research, which drew together and analysed 27 studies (involving over 750,000 women from four continents), found these preventative effects were much larger than previously thought.

This study reported that breastfeeding reduced the risk of developing invasive breast cancers by approximately 10%, while the risk of developing more aggressive forms of the disease were reduced by up to 20%. It did not conclude the optimum length of time to breastfeed for, but did state the risk of developing cancer did appear to reduce the longer women continued.

Whilst the researchers did not know all of the reasons for the preventative effect of breastfeeding, the research seemed to suggest that the high hormone levels required to lactate appeared to affect cell growth, protecting the breast from changes which increase the risk of breast cancer. Women also do not often ovulate while producing breast milk, which is also understood to protect against cancer of the breast and ovaries.

In the UK, the NHS recommends exclusively breastfeeding your child for the first six months. However, rates of breastfeeding in Britain are the lowest in the western world, with only 50% of mothers nursing their child at six weeks, and just 1% following NHS advice and exclusively breastfeeding to six months.

Katherine Woods, Senior Research Communications Manager at Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “This research highlights what we already know; that breastfeeding can lower the risk of breast cancer for mothers. However, more research is needed for us to better understand the connection and to find out which types of breast cancer it affects the most and why.

“The decision of whether to breastfeed is a personal one and it is therefore essential that women are given the information and support they need in order to do what they feel is right for themselves and their baby. Some of the strongest breast cancer risk factors such as gender, genes and age cannot be changed. But risk factors such as lifestyle choices, including cutting down on alcohol and enjoying moderate regular exercise, can be controlled. We therefore encourage all women to make healthy life choices and to stay breast aware.”

For more information please see the Telegraph and Breast Cancer Campaign.

On the pulse 18 December 2014

  • Thank you
  • Cancerkin Christmas Opening Hours
  • Study shows that taking tamoxifen could have a preventative effect against breast cancer for 20 years 

Thank you
This issue of ‘On the pulse’ is the last of 2014 and so we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped support us in the past year.

First, to our supporters. In the past year, you walked, ran, cut off your hair, organised events, came to our theatre evening, made donations and much, much more to ensure we could continue to offer the best possible support to those diagnosed with breast cancer. Thank you.

We would also like to thank the trusts and foundations who fund our various programmes and services. Their contributions over the past year have enabled us to offer 12 different complementary therapies and group classes at the Cancerkin Centre (and a further three in East London) alongside support groups and treatments at our Lymphoedema Clinic.

Thank you to the consultants and breast care nurses at the Royal Free Hospital who ensure all patients know how to access our services. We would also like to thank the Royal Free Hospital for the support it gives us.

In East London, we would like to thank St Barts Hospital, Homerton University Hospital and Newham University Hospital, who ensure that all who want our support can access it. Thank you also to St Joseph’s Hospice, Bromley-by-Bow Health Centre, St Peter’s Church and the Given-Wilson Institute for hosting our complementary therapy sessions.

Finally, we would like to thank our patients, who bring us so much warmth and joy. Thank you.

Cancerkin Christmas Opening Hours
The Cancerkin Centre will be closed from Monday 22 December 20134 until Friday 2 January 2015 (inclusive). We will be back in full swing for the New Year from Monday 5 January 2015.

Study shows that taking tamoxifen could have a preventative effect against breast cancer for 20 years 
Research published the Lancet Oncology has found that taking tamoxifen for five years has a preventative effect for 20 years,  reducing breast cancer rates by approximately 30%.

Last year, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) updated their guidance on the care of women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. This included recommending taking tamoxifen or raloxifene as a preventative measure to a specific group of women who are at high risk of breast cancer and have not had the disease. This recent study has suggested the preventative effect of tamoxifen lasts for longer than was previously thought.

The study involved over 7,000 women, between 35 and 70 years of age, and all at a high risk of developing breast cancer. Half the women received a 20mg daily dose of tamoxifen for five years – the period of time NICE recommends preventative tamoxifen should be taken for – whilst the other participants received a placebo for the same period. After completing treatment, their health was monitored for an average of 16 years.

In total, 251 women who had taken tamoxifen developed breast cancer, compared to 350 women in the placebo group: a 29% reduction in breast cancer rates for the group of women who had taken tamoxifen. Furthermore, the rates of oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer – which accounts for two thirds of all breast cancer cases – were reduced by 35% for the group of women who had received tamoxifen.

The researchers therefore reported that the estimated risk of developing breast cancer was 8% in the tamoxifen group, compared to 12% in the placebo group. This equates to 22 women being treated with tamoxifen for every breast cancer case prevented after 20 years.

The reduced incidence of breast cancer did not, however, lead to fewer breast cancer deaths, with 31 women in the tamoxifen group dying of breast cancer compared to 26 women in the placebo group.

One of the side effects of taking tamoxifen is increased risk of developing endometrial cancer. The study found that while the endometrial cancer cases were 3.8 times more common in the tamoxifen group during the 5 years of treatment, there was no increased risk in the follow-up period.

Professor Jack Cuzick, lead author of the paper, said: “Tamoxifen is a well-established and effective treatment for certain breast cancers, but we now have evidence of its very long-term preventive benefits. The preventive effect of tamoxifen is highly significant with a reduction in breast cancer rates of around a third, and this impact has remained strong and unabated for 20 years. We hope these results will stimulate more women, particularly younger women, to consider treatment options for breast cancer prevention if they have a family history of the disease or other major risk factors.”

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “This… confirms that tamoxifen has a long-lasting effect in reducing cases of breast cancer in women at high risk of the disease. All these drugs have side effects so it’s important that women at high risk of breast cancer talk through their choices with their doctor to work out the best option for them.”

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