Regina Chambers with daughters Lauren and Alicia.
Cancer Council WA funded research is aiming to ease stress for women facing difficult decisions around treatment following a diagnosis of one type of breast cancer.
Breast cancer surgeon, Deputy Head of UWA School of Surgery and CCWA Board Member, Professor Christobel Saunders, who is leading this project, said the focus was on collecting information about a patient’s experience of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
Each year around 2,000 Australian women are diagnosed with DCIS, which is a non- invasive breast cancer confined to breast ducts. Professor Saunders said decision making around treatment for DCIS is complex and often unclear.
“Communicating and understanding a patient’s risk of developing an invasive breast cancer or their risk of dying of breast cancer was at the core of this project. Women who over-estimate their risk of developing invasive breast cancer may potentially undergo unnecessarily aggressive surgery, so we are particularly interested in tracking the progress of women on this trial from diagnosis, treatment through to their outcome.”
She said the project would feed valuable data into a larger national trial to drive the development of a resource to help women with DCIS make decisions about their treatment.
Duncraig mother of three Regina Chambers, who is one of those women who’ve participated in this research, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
Regina said the stress of her diagnosis and the choices she faced regarding surgery and treatment was exacerbated by the fact her Mum had died of breast cancer at the age of 42. Given her family history Regina opted to have a double mastectomy and despite the fact she has experienced significant post-surgical complications from a reconstruction she does not regret her decision.
“It was an extremely difficult decision to make and I was a bumbling mess. Knowing what my Mum went through and knowing my twin daughters were also at risk was constantly on my mind and I really wasn’t sure if I should go ahead right up until the day of surgery.”
Regina said despite the fact she’s experienced ‘a lot of ups and downs on a bumpy road’ the final result makes it all worthwhile because it means she will avoid further brushes with breast cancer.
“I was also very happy to participate in the project because ultimately I’m keen to help make the decision making process easier for other women diagnosed with DCIS.”
Professor Saunders said the $84,000 grant she received from us for this type of ‘pilot or seed’ research was invaluable.
“This project has provided a lot of valuable information about the best way of conducting this type of research based on patient reported outcomes. It also means I can get underway with a small project to get some really good baseline data which can then feed into a larger, national and international study.”
Our Research and Education Director, Terry Slevin said Cancer Council was enthusiastic to support research aimed at improving the treatment for cancer patients in WA.
“Research such as this, which recognises and aims to address the particularly difficult treatment decisions women diagnosed with DCIS face, is incredibly worthwhile.”
Data from the study is now being analysed and results are expected to be published next year.