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breast cancer

How to support your clients with breast cancer

breast cancer breast cancer awareness month metastatic breast cancer secondary breast cancer Oct 04, 2022

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month - a time traditionally swathed in pink and dedicated to awareness of breast cancer symptoms. With around 55,900 new breast cancer cases in the UK every year accounting for 15% of all new cancer cases, that awareness is incredibly important. However, the focus tends to be almost entirely on primary breast cancer and secondary breast cancer often gets overlooked.

Diagnosis is an essential part of the breast cancer journey, and early diagnosis is very important. However, it's not the end of the journey and it's also not everyone's experience. As therapists, we are in a powerful position to help clients through each stage of their breast cancer journey, supporting mental and physical wellbeing and resilience.

We can do this by providing wellbeing support to improve quality of life while doctors focus on medical treatment, and we can also educate ourselves in the wider symptoms of secondary breast cancer to help clients seek out earlier diagnoses and understand their underrepresented journey.

Here are some of the ways you can support your clients with breast cancer.

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Keep your cancer knowledge up to date

One of the things that we often talk about at Jennifer Young Training is keeping our knowledge about cancer and cancer treatment up to date. During our oncology massage training we include information on the biology of cancer and cancer treatment, but we also encourage therapists to stay up to date with their knowledge around cancer therapies. At times, that might include doing a refresher course as we continuously update the information we include with scientific advancements.

Read our blog: Staying up to date with cancer treatments


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Understanding the symptoms of secondary breast cancer

Our job as therapists is categorically not to frighten clients or to diagnose cancer. However, we can help individuals to stay in tune with their bodies and to speak up if something doesn't feel quite right. As therapists, we will often find that people talk to us about things they may not feel comfortable discussing outside the treatment room; in a state of relaxation we feel happier to open up.

Secondary breast cancer often goes undetected because the symptoms are less obvious and less talked about. Secondary (or metastatic) breast cancer is when it has spread to another part of the body. The most common areas that breast cancer spreads to are the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, brain or bones.

There are an estimated 35,000 people living with secondary breast cancer in the UK and that for around 5% of people, breast cancer has already spread by the time it is diagnosed. It is the biggest cancer killer of women under the age of 50 in the UK.

The symptoms are broadly characterised as follows by Cancer Research UK:

  • Feeling tired
  • Low energy levels
  • Feeling under the weather
  • Having less appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Understanding these symptoms can help you talk to clients who have been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer and appreciate their experience. However, if you find that a client is mentioning any of these symptoms you can also gently suggest that they might want to see their GP. The chances are that everything is fine, but it never hurts to check. You don't need to mention breast cancer, and you don't need to jump to conclusions, but your awareness could help someone.

It is, as MET UP UK puts it, the 'darker side of pink', and it can be extremely frightening for people, but we can support people on their journey and help take a small piece of that isolation away.

Read our blog: Therapists’ work is essential for helping us reconnect with our bodies

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Help clients manage the side effects of cancer treatment

Diagnosis is very much the first step in someone's breast cancer journey, and equally there are many women living active lives with secondary breast cancer.

The treatments and products that we create at Jennifer Young are specifically designed to soothe the side effects of cancer treatment and improve the quality of life for cancer patients at all stages of their cancer journey.

In the same way that touch therapies improve quality of life for anyone, they have profound benefits for cancer patients, ranging from reduced pain perception and reduced nausea to stress and anxiety relief.

In her recent talk to doctors and healthcare workers at Oncology Professional Care, Jennifer Young posed the question - 'Is saving a life enough?', going on to discuss the value of holistic wellbeing for cancer patients. She spoke about the top concerns of cancer patients - those they felt unable to voice to their doctors for fear of seeming trivial - and she quantified the effectiveness of her touch therapies in ameliorating the side-effects of treatment for cancer.

It is within our gift as therapists to support people through their breast cancer journey, no matter what it is. That's how we can help breast cancer patients, and we need to make sure they understand you are here for them, both in Breast Cancer Awareness Month and beyond.


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Is saving a life enough?



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