- Clinical trial could significantly improve access to ‘talking therapy’ for breast cancer patients, helping them regain a sense of control over difficult side-effects
- Yeovil Hospital one of six UK hospitals participating in the MENOS 4 trial
Yeovil Hospital is to participate in a new clinical trial – funded by leading charity Breast Cancer Now – to investigate the best way to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to reduce the impact of two major side-effects for women undergoing breast cancer treatment.
Hot flushes and night sweats are common side-effects of current breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and anti-hormone drugs. Experienced by up to 70% of women receiving treatment, they can have a huge impact on their daily lives, often affecting employment, personal relationships and general quality of life, and sometimes leading to women not completing the full course of their treatment.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – which is normally offered to women experiencing hot flushes as part of the menopause – unfortunately cannot be used by women with breast cancer as it can increase the risk of their disease returning. In addition, these side-effects can often be more extreme and longer-lasting in women who have had breast cancer than those experienced during natural menopause.
It is therefore essential that scientists and clinicians find ways to help women undergoing breast cancer treatment reduce the impact of these side-effects, to give them the best possible quality of life and help them to continue their treatment to reduce the risk of breast cancer returning.
Paula Hutchinson, 50 – a participant of the MENOS 4 trial – who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she said:
“Hot flushes and night sweats, side effects of breast cancer! A minute and a half of a hot flush doesn’t seem long but the effect it has on my day to day life is totally overwhelming. Forgetfulness, irritability and lack of concentration are just three symptoms but I’ve acquired a range of coping strategies to let me lead a full life.
“I’m very lucky to still have my pre cancer positivity and along with my great family I received amazing support via Breast Care Team.”
Researchers have already shown that CBT – a type of ‘talking therapy’ – can help to reduce the impact that hot flushes and night sweats have on women undergoing breast cancer treatment, allowing them to regain a sense of control over these symptoms.
Although CBT is known to be effective, it is not currently offered routinely within the NHS for women with breast cancer. At present CBT can only be given to groups by trained clinical psychologists and there is nothing currently considered a universal gold standard of care in breast cancer treatment, meaning support to help patients manage these difficult symptoms varies across the country.
Following a grant of over £300,000 by Breast Cancer Now, Professor Deborah Fenlon (Swansea University) will lead a three-year clinical trial (MENOS 4) at Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, University of Southampton to investigate whether the same CBT could be as effective when delivered by local breast cancer nurses instead of clinical psychologists. If so, this could drastically improve access to CBT as most women will see a breast cancer nurse during their treatment.
Yeovil Hospital is one of six UK hospitals participating in the trial – along with Queen Alexandra Hospital (Portsmouth), Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, York Teaching Hospital, Walsall Manor Hospital and Royal Glamorgan Hospital – which will involve up to 160 women undergoing breast cancer treatment who are experiencing severe and frequent hot flushes or night sweats.
Half of the women will receive group CBT from a breast cancer nurse (who has been specially trained by clinical psychologists to deliver the intervention), involving six weekly sessions lasting 90 minutes each, while the other half will receive whatever support they would normally receive.
The researchers will evaluate the impact of CBT on the women’s hot flushes and night sweats after 26 weeks. In addition, group CBT sessions will be recorded and analysed by independent psychologists, to assess its effectiveness when delivered by breast cancer nurses. A process evaluation will also be conducted to explore the ways in which breast care nurses were able to implement the group therapy so that, if it is successful, other centres will have a blueprint for how they go about offering this service in their own area.
Becky Laney and Nia Dobner, Breast Care Nurses at Yeovil Hospital, said:
“We are delighted that Yeovil Hospital is participating in this trial, and hope it can make a real difference to patients in the region who are experiencing hot flushes and night sweats as a side-effect of their breast cancer treatment.
“Hot flushes can have a major impact on women’s lives: affecting their work, social life and disrupting their sleep. We look forward to the results of this trial, and hope that it will enable much wider access to CBT among breast cancer patients.”
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:
“Professor Fenlon’s research could pave the way for much wider access to CBT to help reduce the impact of hot flushes and night sweats on the lives of women with breast cancer.
“We know that CBT is a valuable, cost-effective way to help alleviate two particularly debilitating side-effects of breast cancer treatment, which could significantly improve the quality of life for many women, at this already difficult time.
“We need to continue to move towards more tailored and specialised treatments to better support and meet the needs of women living with and beyond breast cancer. We hope this trial will be an important first step to improving access to CBT and we look forward to the results.”
Any women being treated at any of the centres taking part in the trial who are experiencing troublesome hot flushes as a side-effect of treatment are encouraged to ask their breast care nurse about the study, which is currently recruiting participants.
Breast Cancer Now is grateful to Walk the Walk for their generous support of Breast Cancer Now’s Research Innovation Unit, which made this research possible.
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This post was written by Communications Team