Females suffering incurable breast cancer are suffering needless pain during the last months of their lives.
The charity, Breast Cancer, has warned that some women are left in agony for years, although there is available treatment.
Its poll, including 200 women with incurable cancer, found that 90% were left in pain, with around 59% suffering on a daily basis. If these results are applied to all patients with breast cancer, in excess of 32000 females will be affected.
Breast Cancer Care’s clinical director, Dr Emma Pennery, said that pain cannot be eliminated in all cases, but prompt referral to a specialist increases the chances of relief. She said that pain relief may not be considered as doctors focus on treatment for the cancer. Some healthcare professionals also link the management of pain and symptoms with the end of life, but it is possible for help to be offered earlier.
Some women who suffer with advanced breast cancer live for years and go through agony all these years. The charity is calling on doctors to inform women about pain relief as soon as they are diagnosed.
Dr Pennery said that palliative care can have a huge impact on quality of life and can help to alleviate suffering. Sadly, however, palliative care teams state that some of the referrals are for breast cancer patients who only have weeks to live and by that time, it is too late to effectively intervene.
She said that treatment developments mean that patients are able to survive for longer periods if they suffer secondary breast cancer. This means that it is important for healthcare professionals to have the knowledge to offer the patient adequate symptom management.
She added that no one should live with unnecessary pain or lack information required to make health decisions.
Many of the women are hindered by the idea of death which surrounds palliative care, which is normally offered by hospices. Around 70% of the women polled were unaware that palliative care is not limited to the end of life.
Eleanor Meade from Kent was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer about six years ago. She said when she was first diagnosed she had not heard of palliative care and was afraid of the hospice. She stated that she was unaware that they were not for the very last stages of life. However, they were able to alleviate some of her most distressing and troubling symptoms.
She heard about it by discussing it with others in the same position and felt that she should have been informed about it earlier.
Breast Cancer Care’s Diana Jupp said it was unacceptable that breast cancer patients are not offered timely access to palliative care, which results in them suffering excruciating pain.
Image Credit: Caitlin Regan