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Palgrave woman joins Breast Cancer Now's national Unsurvivors campaign

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A woman from Palgrave has featured in a national breast cancer campaign video to petition for improvements in the diagnosis, treatment and support offered to people with secondary breast cancer.

Judy Willowe, 47, of Lows Lane, was diagnosed in 2017 and soon got involved with Breast Cancer Now’s Unsurvivors campaign.

She said: “I was first sent a questionnaire from the charity asking about people’s experiences, then I got involved in one of their focus groups and it has gone from there.”

Judy Willowe has featured in Breast Cancer Now’s Unsurvivors campaign. Picture by Mark Bullimore.
Judy Willowe has featured in Breast Cancer Now’s Unsurvivors campaign. Picture by Mark Bullimore.

Secondary breast cancer occurs when breast cancer cells spread from the first (primary) cancer in the breast through the lymphatic or blood system to other parts of the body, most commonly the bones, lungs, liver and brain.

The cancer is incurable with treatment only able to control it, relieve symptoms and give a good quality of life for as long as possible.

Breast Cancer Now’s petition, which only started last weekend and has more than 13,500 people signed up to it, is asking the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, the Minister for Health and Social Services and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to improve services available to people living with the cancer.

A survey conducted by the charity, which had responses from more than 2,000 people living with secondary cancer, revealed only 73 per cent of English respondents were given the name of a clinical nurse specialist at diagnosis, 23 per cent had to see their GP three or more times before they were diagnosed and only 30 per cent said they get to see a clinical nurse specialist regularly.

Judy, a wife and mother of two boys, aged five and 10, admitted the survey’s figures and the video on the website are not comfortable reading, but they are something that the public needs to know.

She said: “I have received outstanding care from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and I am still on my first treatment, but the fact of the matter is that others are having to go to their doctor too many times to be diagnosed. There is a lack of specialist nurses, while treatments are coming through too slowly.

“Women and men are dying waiting for these things to happen, that is why we need a change and people need to get involved.”

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