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9 Nov 2021

Breast cancer fear stops women from getting help sooner

Do you know that there are different types of breast cancer and different treatment options?

Our research shows that knowing there are different types of breast cancer and treatments would make women more confident to seek an earlier diagnosis.

We partnered with charity The Pink Ribbon Foundation to raise awareness that not all breast cancer is the same and importantly not all treatments are the same either.

Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the UK. Although many women know what signs and symptoms to look out for, many feel in the dark about different types of breast cancer and breast cancer treatments

To understand more about the public’s perception of breast cancer and available treatment options we conducted a survey of 2,000 UK women.  The results found that one in 10 women believe all breast cancer is the same and one in six believe all breast cancer is treated the same way. Over half of the women we surveyed felt in the dark about breast cancer treatments (58%).

What are the different types of breast cancer?

Breast cancer is not one disease, there are different types of breast cancer and many treatment options for each. 

In general, there is pre-invasive breast cancer, also called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and invasive breast cancer. 

Pre-invasive breast cancer (DCIS)

Pre-invasive breast cancer (DCIS) is often referred to as stage zero. This is where breast cancer cells are found in the milk ducts and haven’t spread into the breast tissue. 

DCIS is completely different from invasive cancer, and doesn’t have the potential to spread, but it needs to be treated to stop it becoming invasive. It can usually be cured at this early stage with surgery and radiotherapy, which you can read more about below.

Invasive breast cancer

Invasive breast cancer has spread outside of the ducts and into the surrounding breast tissue. This type of cancer is often called ‘invasive breast cancer (no special type)‘ because the cancer cells have no special features. It used to be called invasive ductal carcinoma.

It’s the most common type of breast cancer. 

There are different types of invasive cancer depending on the biology of the cancer cells. The majority are oestrogen-driven, or ER positive, and treatment options for these are very effective. Other, slightly more aggressive, tumours include HER2+ and triple negative breast cancers. Scientists now have a very good understanding of these cancers and have developed a variety of treatment options.

Inflammatory breast cancer  affects the lymph vessels and causes swelling and inflammation of the skin.

What breast cancer treatment options are there?

There are many different treatment options available depending on the type of breast cancer, its stage, and whether it’s non-invasive or invasive. 

Many women mistakenly think that treatment always involves a mastectomy, but this is not the case. Breast cancer treatment options include new drugs and technologies that have advanced over recent years thanks to cancer research around the world. Your surgeon and oncologist will decide the best treatment plan and cancer care for your specific needs.

Surgery

If surgery is required, then it may involve a lumpectomy, also called breast conserving surgery, where the cancer cells are removed but breast tissue is preserved. If you do need a mastectomy, you may be able to have a breast reconstruction at the same time.

Radiotherapy

There are many innovative radiotherapy techniques, which have been proven to be safe and effective. For example, high dose treatment can be delivered over a small number of sessions allowing patients to complete their treatment quickly and deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) helps protect organs close to the treatment site from radiation to reduce side effects. Modern technology used at GenesisCare avoids the need for permanent markers or tattoos on your skin.

Ruth’s Story: how DIBH helped during treatment. 

Drug treatments

Systemic treatments that treat the whole body such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy are also used to treat breast cancer. Many new drugs, which target certain types of breast cancer, have been introduced over recent years. Chemotherapy drugs can be tailored to suit certain cancers. New immunotherapy treatments have transformed the way we treat some patients by encouraging the body’s own immune system to attack breast cancer cells. 

The most important thing to remember is that there are multiple options, and that treatment will be personalised to you and your cancer. 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive more than 10 years, but it’s important to get treatment as early as possible.

Worryingly, our research indicates a lack of knowledge around the different treatment options would dissuade three in 10 women from reporting possible signs and symptoms to a medical professional, with a fifth being reluctant even to attend screening. This makes the prospect of receiving a diagnosis even more frightening and can lead to heightened feelings of anxiety, as well as a delay in seeking help.

In fact, having a greater knowledge of treatment options would make nearly two fifths (38%) feel more confident to seek an earlier diagnosis and over two thirds of women want to know more about different treatment options.

Find out more about breast cancer treatment and care at GenesisCare – where you’ll receive the latest world-class treatments when you need them from a team of experts who focus on you to achieve the best outcome possible.

Breast cancer awareness video

To help women understand that not all breast cancers are the same we have created a video which features Professor PG Roy, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon at GenesisCare, Jonathan Prince MBE, Chair of Trustees at the Pink Ribbon Foundation, Amanda Mealing actress, director and breast cancer survivor, and Ruth, a GenesisCare breast cancer patient. You can watch our video here.

“Everyone is unique, and therefore your treatment and your response to treatment should be as unique as you”
Amanda Mealing – Actress, Director and Breast Cancer Survivor

It’s time to have an open conversation

Professor P.G. Roy, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon at GenesisCare says “We know that cancer is a difficult topic and one that people often don’t want to think about in detail. However, taking time to understand the different treatment options available to you, should you be diagnosed, can give you a greater sense of control. The innovations we’ve witnessed over the past years for the treatment of breast cancer means women can receive far more tailored and personalised treatment plans than ever before.”

Amanda Mealing, actress, director and breast cancer survivor helped us to raise awareness of the different types of cancer and treatment pathways available to encourage women to have more open and honest conversations.

She says “I know from my own experience how scary it can be to receive a diagnosis and go through treatment. However, one of the main things I’ve learnt and what I always tell people is how important an early diagnosis can be, as this often gives you the best chance and outcomes.”

Together with The Pink Ribbon Foundation our team of breast experts at GenesisCare hope that this research will shine a light on some of the myths around breast cancer and its treatment. In truth, no two breast cancers are identical and they’re not all treated the same way either. Innovations have been developed over the past years that mean women can receive far more tailored and personalised treatment plans than ever before that are adapted to their diagnosis. Not all treatment plans include chemotherapy, hair loss isn’t always a side effect and radiotherapy can be delivered without needing permanent tattoos.

Jonathan Prince, Chair of Trustees at Pink Ribbon Foundation says: “Facing breast cancer is an enormously difficult challenge for anyone – so it’s important for us to recognise where we can do more to broaden conversations, awareness and education amongst women, so they feel equipped to ask about the different options open to them at the stages of screening and treatment.”

If you’re concerned about symptoms, make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible, or you can visit a one stop breast clinic.