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Crisis looms for breast cancer care

The gap in services could plunge the service into crisis and will particularly affect older women with the disease, according to a report compiled by Breast Cancer Care, which surveyed the opinions of 50 cancer experts.

© HMG Worldwide 2003

Wednesday, 09 July 2003

The gap in services could plunge the service into crisis and will particularly affect older women with the disease, according to a report compiled by Breast Cancer Care, which surveyed the opinions of 50 cancer experts. The report calls on the government to urgently review the planning of the UK’s breast cancer services for the next three decades.

Anna Wood, policy analyst and author of the report, said, “Planning and investment is urgently needed now to ensure that the UK has the infrastructure in place to care for people with breast cancer. “Facilities, treatments and skilled healthcare professionals must be planned now for the future, or breast cancer patients, particularly older women, will not get the medical services and community support they need,” she said.

Less than half the experts believed there would be adequate provision of cancer treatment facilities to cope with the ageing population in the next 30 years. They are concerned that older women in particular will suffer from the lack of services. The report also highlighted concerns about the likely shortage of palliative care services in the future.

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said, “We acknowledge that older patients, who are already frail, may need longer in-patient stays or increased care at home to recover from radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment. Older women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer and together with an ageing population and rising incidence, the predicted shortages in palliative care paint a frightening picture of the future,” she said.

The research also found that about 70% of the cancer experts believed that age discrimination played a part in treatment decisions for older women. Professor Trevor Powles, from the Institute of Cancer Research, added, “Women over the age of 70 with breast cancer respond just as well to treatment as younger patients. It is ageism at its worst to deny such women, who otherwise have 15 to 20 years of life expectancy, state-of-the-art treatment and follow up.”

The report, “Breast Cancer in the UK: What’s the Prognosis”, forms part two of an ongoing campaign by the charity improve planning around care provision for breast cancer patients.

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