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The University of Southampton

Two leading breast cancer charities invite women to take part in a unique UK study looking at the experience of living with secondary breast cancer

Published: 9 November 2004

Breast Cancer Campaign and Breast Cancer Care are seeking women with secondary breast cancer in the UK to take part in one of the first ever studies to explore the experience of those living with secondary breast cancer.

Over the past five years there has been significant progress in improving treatments for secondary breast cancer and as a consequence women with the disease are living longer. However, surprisingly little is known about the practical and emotional effects of living with advancing disease or about the support needs of these women.

Christine Fogg, Joint Chief Executive, Breast Cancer Care says, "This is an incredibly exciting development for us and for the thousands of women in the UK who are living with secondary breast cancer. The strength of this project lies in the collaboration between Breast Cancer Care, Breast Cancer Campaign and the University of Southampton, bringing together research expertise and a real understanding of day-to-day experiences of people affected by breast cancer."

The charities are calling for women with advanced breast cancer to take part in this unique study by visiting Breast Cancer Care's website at and filling in an online questionnaire. The same survey will also be completed by women with secondary breast cancer who already attend two cancer centers in Southampton and Portsmouth.

This study will help Professor Jessica Corner and her team at the University of Southampton to identify how secondary breast cancer affects women in terms of their physical, emotional and social well-being and whether appropriate care and support services are in place to help them, in particular since their diagnosis.

Jessica Corner, Professor of Cancer and Palliative Care explains, "Past evaluations of Breast Cancer Care's clinical services for women with secondary breast cancer reveal some common themes, indicating that this group of women can feel isolated and unsupported and that many are having to find their way through health and social services provision by themselves. The impression from this anecdotal feedback is that their practical, emotional and support needs are different to those of women with primary breast cancer. I hope that this study will give us a clearer picture of those needs and how they can be met by healthcare professionals."

From those who take part in the study, 30 women will be invited to go on to the second phase. This phase will involve hour- long interviews, three times over the period of a year (at the beginning, after six months and at 12 months), to construct personal accounts of their practical and emotional experience of their illness.

It is hoped that the findings of this research will improve the experience of those women who are living with secondary breast cancer by providing information for patients. It is also hoped that the findings will offer clinicians, health service leaders and policy makers a better understanding of the impact of the disease on those that are affected by it so that health services can be developed to provide for their needs.

Pamela Goldberg, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Campaign says, "The needs of women living with secondary breast cancer today are as important as those of women in the future whom we hope to help through the scientific research Breast Cancer Campaign supports. We are delighted to fund and work on this collaborative project with Breast Cancer Care and the University of Southampton, and hope that the findings of this important study will in the future complement the work of Breast Cancer Care, in providing information, practical assistance and emotional support for anyone affected by breast cancer."

Related Staff Member

Notes for editors

  1. Tracey Springthorp and Mari Dommett are women affected by secondary breast cancer and are available for interview.
  2. Secondary breast cancer is the term used to describe when breast cancer cells have broken away from the initial tumour and spread to another part of the body where it may form a new tumour.
  3. Breast Cancer Campaign funds research into breast cancer at centers of excellence throughout the UK. The Charity aims to find a cure for breast cancer by funding research which looks at improving diagnosis of breast cancer, better understanding how it develops and ultimately either curing the disease or preventing it.
  4. Breast Cancer Care is the UK's leading provider of information, practical assistance and emotional support for anyone affected by breast cancer. Every year we receive almost two million requests for support and information through our services including our helpline, website and publications. All of our services are free.
    For more information call the Breast Cancer Care helpline free on 0808 800 6000 (textphone 0808 800 6001) or visit
  5. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.
  6. Professor Jessica Corner was the first nurse to be awarded the Nuffield Trust's prestigious Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Fellowship in 2001. As Professor of Palliative Care at the University of Southampton she leads a research programme aimed at improving the care of people affected by cancer. This work focuses on researching people's experiences of cancer, treatment and care, developing new approaches to managing the problems of living with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, and into improving end of life care. She is a Trustee of Macmillan Cancer Relief and a member of the Department of Health Lung Cancer Advisory Group.
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