Thursday, 15 October 2020

Not just one day; BRiC for Breast Cancer Awareness


Secondary breast cancer is not just one day, it is every day.

Secondary breast cancer is the focus for awareness-raising for only one day (13th) out of the thirty-one days of October. (Breast Cancer Awareness Month). Yet most people do not know what secondary breast cancer is.

Most people do not know that:
- secondary breast cancer doesn't mean getting breast cancer twice.
- secondary breast cancer is not a less serious breast cancer.
- secondary breast cancer is incurable.

Treatment aims to slow down the spread of disease, relieve symptoms and give the best quality of life, for as long as possible. Some people live years, but only if they can access the best treatment possible, as early as possible. Delays due to Covid, or for any other reason, are unacceptable.

We sometimes read that it is not primary breast cancer that kills, but secondary breast cancer. The problem is, this way of thinking makes it appear that secondary breast cancer is a completely separate disease. It is not.

Women with secondary breast cancer were once women with primary breast cancer (unless they were diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at the same time as their diagnosis with primary breast cancer). Secondary breast cancer is breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body. It is sometimes described as 'stage 4 breast cancer', 'advanced breast cancer' or 'metastatic breast cancer'.

It is thought that around 30% of women diagnosed with primary breast cancer go on to develop secondary breast cancer. Sometimes their disease cruelly returns years after the initial diagnosis. This is a very frightening possibility for those of us diagnosed with primary breast cancer, so frightening that a lot of us try to avoid facing our fear that our cancer might come back.

But sweeping secondary breast cancer under the pink carpet does a disservice to us all. Especially to women living with secondary breast cancer.

As secondary breast cancer receives even less attention for funding, it is imperative that our psychological needs are met and our voices are heard. Women with secondary breast cancer need women with primary breast cancer to support and advocate for them; women with primary breast cancer can be supported by, and can learn from other women with secondary breast cancer. Here at BRiC, we do not see primary and secondary breast cancer as separate entities, but instead, as being on a continuum, where a better understanding of both our common and specialised needs can foster greater mutual support and learning as well as advocacy for improved treatments.

Here at BRiC women with primary and secondary breast cancer have come together in unity. Together we are stronger.

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