Breast cancer-survivor found out the disease returned while 20-weeks pregnant
A breast-cancer survivor who found out the disease had returned while 20-weeks pregnant chose to risk her life rather than have an abortion.
The woman – known only as Kate – faced the heartbreaking decision of whether to terminate her pregnancy and receive the most effective cancer treatment or have less efficacious therapy but save her baby.
Refusing to lose her little one, Kate decided to fight the disease while expecting.
In a moving NHS documentary, medics at Liverpool Women’s Hospital can be seen trying to balance the amount of radiotherapy Kate needs while keeping her baby safe.
The woman – known only as Kate – faced the heartbreaking decision of whether to terminate her pregnancy and receive the most effective cancer treatment or have less efficacious therapy but save her baby
Refusing to lose her little one, Kate decided to fight the disease while expecting
Kate previously fought cancer after she found a lump in her breast ten years ago.
Still in her twenties, she endured a double mastectomy to rid herself of the disease.
Despite being desperate to be parents, Kate and her husband Glen put off starting a family until she finished a five-year course of drugs to prevent the cancer returning.
Doctors warned the couple the medication could harm a developing child.
After welcoming a daughter two years ago, Kate is pregnant again, however, the cancer has returned and is now in her bones – including her spine.
Breast cancer affects one in eight women at some point in their lives in the UK and US.
It is unclear how many of these tumours spread, however, most that do go to the bones.
Secondary breast cancer in the bones is often incurable, with treatment focusing on slowing the growth of the tumours, relieving symptoms and maintaining quality of life.
In a moving NHS documentary, medics at Liverpool Women’s Hospital can be seen trying to balance the amount of radiotherapy Kate needs while keeping her baby safe
Despite being desperate to be parents, Kate and her husband Glen put off starting a family until she finished a five-year course of drugs to prevent the cancer returning
After welcoming a daughter two years ago, Kate is pregnant again, however, the cancer has returned and is now in her bones – including her spine
The latest episode of BBC2 documentary Hospital, which airs tomorrow night, also shows baby Violet at just 33 hours old.
The newborn travelled from Worcester to Liverpool Women’s neo-natal department where she was diagnosed with a life-threatening bowel problem.
With no neo-natal surgical facilities on site, Violet was rushed for an emergency operation at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
And 19-year-old pharmacy student Lili is also among those who sought treatment after she developed recurring painful swelling in her abdomen.
A consultant at the hospital was concerned the continued build-up of fluid build may indicate cancer.
Although tests revealed Lili did not have cancer, they did show a ovarian cyst weighing just over 2.2lbs (1kg).
Forced to remove the growth, the medics then faced the difficult challenge off how to save the teen’s fertility.
Filmed between October and December last year, Hospital tracks the day-to-day goings on of six NHS trusts across Liverpool.
With a catchment area that strecthes to North Wales, Cheshire and the Isle of Man, the trusts serve more than 2.5million people.
The documentary shows how Liverpool Women’s Hospital is struggling with the NHS’ recruitment crisis – with gynaecological oncology missing a third of its consultants.
Rebekah – a 64-year-old patient – is among those who is feeling the effects of the hospital being short staffed.
Due to a lack of specialist surgeons, she has been forced to wait almost four months for an operation to remove an endometrial tumour.
And she has no idea whether the cancer has spread.
Hospital airs Thursday January 24 on BBC Two at 9pm.
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER, HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES IT STRIKE AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.
The cancerous cells are graded from stage one, which means a slow growth, up to stage four, which is the most aggressive.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.
Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign.
The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.
If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.
- Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
- Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
- Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
- Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.
How successful is treatment?
The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.
The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 mean more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk or www.cancerhelp.org.uk