Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

This Sunday 13 of October will mark Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.


Finding your way with metastatic breast cancer

This Sunday 13 of October will mark Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The Cancer Nursing Research Group at the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with women living with metastatic breast cancer, clinicians, Cancer Council Victoria, and leading breast cancer support organisations Think Pink, Counterpart and the Breast Cancer Network Australia, have developed Signpost, a tailor-made postcard resource for women living metastatic breast cancer

Also called stage IV (4) breast cancer, or advanced breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer is a form of cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body, such as the bones, lungs, liver or, less commonly, brain. Because of its advanced stage, it is incurable, so the focus of treatment is on controlling the disease, quality of life and symptom management, often over the course of many years.

In Australia, around 20-30 per cent of women who have been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will go on to develop metastatic disease, while some women are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer as their first diagnosis. Despite this, it receives considerably less research interest, funding and support than early stage disease. Many women living with metastatic disease report a broad range of unmet supportive care needs that may include, physical, emotional, informational and financial needs. They often lack the direction they need to find relevant support in a timely and accessible way.

In light of this, a dedicated group of researchers and patients have conducted the Signpost study. The work involved in-depth interviews and focus groups with women living with a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, to inform the development of a new resource.

“This research study focused on supportive care for women who are facing a life-limiting illness but living with that for sometimes a period of years. In the study we had women who were diagnosed less than 12 months ago all the way up to one respondent who had been diagnosed 29 years ago,” said project officer Nadine Borschmann.

The Signpost postcard has been tested in four hospitals in Victoria with 72% of 89 respondents saying that it was valuable. The postcard offers a clear directory of where to access supportive care organisations as well as a summary of the resources and services they offer.

Despite the burden of this cancer, there are limited resources to help those affected to quickly find support and information relevant to them. This study sought to address this gap.

“Our study set out to learn from and work with women living with the disease to develop something that would be of value to them” said Prof Mei Krishnasamy, the project lead.

In line with Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, the researchers hope to shed light on the Signpost resource, making more women aware that the resource is available, and that there are resources available tailored to the needs of women living with metastatic breast cancer.

The study was funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

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