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Breast cancer patients 'need better mental health support'

25 September 2018 09:34

Breast cancer patients should get mental health advice

Breast cancer patients should get mental health advice

Two leading charities have called for better mental health support to be made available for patients living with breast cancer.

According to a survey by Breast Cancer Care, more than eight in 10 (84%) women diagnosed in England are not given warnings about the possible long-term mental-health effects of the disease.

One in three (33%) respondents revealed that following diagnosis of the illness they experienced anxiety for the first time in their lives.

Charities Breast Cancer Care and Mind are now leading calls for all women with the disease to be advised of the mental health risks of breast cancer and offered support if needed.

Social isolation

The survey involved 2,862 women in England with primary breast cancer who had finished hospital treatment.

Almost half (45%) continuously fear that their cancer may return, while one fifth (19%) said they experienced social isolation after treatment ended.

Lauren Faye, 28, from Bristol, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2016, said she has struggled with social isolation and anxiety since her treatment, issues that were not mentioned by her healthcare team.

She said: "My last hospital appointment felt like a huge anti-climax. I'd been so caught up in the whirlwind of treatment, I didn't anticipate how hard moving forward would be.

"I felt isolated from my friends as I had no energy to go out with them, and I had to watch from the sidelines as they all got on with their careers, relationships and lives."

Long-term side effects

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said the figures highlight the "stark reality of life after breast cancer".

She said: "Damaged body image, anxieties about the cancer returning and debilitating long-term side effects can disrupt identities and shatter confidence, leaving people feeling incredibly lonely, and at odds with friends, family and the outside world.

"We know people expect to feel better when they finish treatment and can be utterly devastated and demoralised to find it the hardest part.

"And though the NHS is severely overstretched, it's crucial people have a conversation about their mental health at the end of treatment so they can get the support they need, at the right time."

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