Áilín Quin­lan

Far from be­ing a last re­sort, clin­i­cal tri­als of­fer in­creased treat­ment op­tions to can­cer pa­tients, and a new cam­paign is urg­ing peo­ple to check with their doc­tors to see what’s out there. re­ports

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - REAL LIFE -

EMMA Cor­co­ran was in a chang­ing-room try­ing on some clothes when she no­ticed some­thing un­usual about one of her breasts. The mother-of-three had re­cently no­ticed that her bra had be­come tighter, but it was only on that day in June 2016, while try­ing on a top she was plan­ning to buy, that she spot­ted the tan­gi­ble change in her left breast:

“When I took off the top I was try­ing on, I no­ticed that my left breast had al­most changed po­si­tion,” she re­calls.

“It ap­peared to have dropped a lit­tle lower and the nip­ple was al­most point­ing down.”

At the time, Emma put the odd change in her breast down to turn­ing 40, but in hind­sight, there were other clues — when a friend gave her a strong hug that left her chest aching for days after­wards. Then there was the fact that she had felt very tired in re­cent months. She blamed her busy life­style for the tired­ness; she was work­ing in ad­min­is­tra­tion at a school for deaf chil­dren, along with car­ing for her young chil­dren.

How­ever, on July 8th came a warn­ing that the Lusk, Co Dublin res­i­dent was un­able to ignore or at­tribute to her age or life­style.

That night, when Emma was in bed she ca­su­ally scratched her breast and found what felt like a “mas­sive lump”.

She saw her doc­tor, who re­ferred her to the breast clinic where she was di­ag­nosed quickly with stage two in­va­sive duc­tal car­ci­noma (IDC) breast can­cer.

Emma had a par­tial mas­tec­tomy in her left breast and un­der­went the re­moval of lymph nodes, which had also been af­fected. Then she be­gan treat­ment — a mix­ture of chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion.

Ini­tially she didn’t know any­thing about the pos­si­bil­ity of can­cer tri­als, which in­ves­ti­gate new ways to pre­vent, de­tect and treat can­cer.

How­ever, af­ter read­ing an ar­ti­cle about such tri­als in the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent, Emma be­gan to look into what tri­als were tak­ing place in Ire­land.

In all, about 100 can­cer tri­als, seek­ing an­swers to can­cer, are ac­tively re­cruit­ing peo­ple liv­ing with can­cer, and at­tend­ing one of 16 hos­pi­tals around the coun­try.

At any one time there are in the re­gion of 6,000 peo­ple tak­ing part in these can­cer re­search projects.

More than 50pc of all clin­i­cal tri­als in Ire­land are can­cer tri­als. How­ever, new re­search pub­lished last week shows that fewer than one in 10 (9pc) pa­tients liv­ing with can­cer have asked about par­tic­i­pat­ing in a can­cer trial.

The study also found that many pa­tients con­sider can­cer tri­als to be a ‘last re­sort’ treat­ment op­tion, with 22pc of peo­ple sur­veyed be­liev­ing that can­cer tri­als were only used when stan­dard treat­ments had not worked.

Yes­ter­day was Clin­i­cal Tri­als Day 2018, a day that seeks to raise aware­ness about, and pro­mote a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of, the pos­si­bil­i­ties of­fered by clin­i­cal re­search tri­als.

At the same time, Can­cer Tri­als Ire­land, a not-for-profit reg­is­tered char­ity and the only or­gan­i­sa­tion in Ire­land fo­cused solely on can­cer re­search tri­als, has just launched its ‘Just Ask Your Doc­tor!’ cam­paign which aims to en­cour­age pa­tients to talk to their doc­tors and sup­port teams about par­tic­i­pat­ing in tri­als which could be of ben­e­fit to them.

Thanks to her own re­search, Emma found a suit­able trial, the Pal­las trial, for which she would be el­i­gi­ble. Pal­las is aim­ing to see if a tar­geted med­i­ca­tion can de­crease the chances of breast can­cer com­ing back. She was ac­cepted onto the trial and be­gan treat­ment in April 2017; the trial runs un­til July 2019.

Other than low en­ergy lev­els, there have been no ma­jor side ef­fects of the drugs which she now takes as a par­tic­i­pant in the trial, re­ports Emma, now 42. She says she joined the trial partly to help oth­ers, and partly to help her­self: “If just one per­son didn’t have to go through what I went through, I’d be de­lighted,” she says.

She points out that she mightn’t have had the op­por­tu­nity to avail of the treat­ment op­tions that have helped her own re­cov­ery if other peo­ple had not tri­alled those drugs be­fore her.

She also wanted to give her­self a bet­ter • Can­cer Tri­als Ire­land’s Just Ask Your Doc­tor! Cam­paign urges peo­ple liv­ing with can­cer to ask their GP or on­col­o­gist if there is a rel­e­vant can­cer trial that they can join to in­crease their treat­ment op­tions. • For in­for­ma­tion on on­go­ing can­cer tri­als visit can­cer­tri­als.ie

‘I look at it as

hav­ing a con­di­tion I can live with and I park it there’

Emma Cor­co­ran joined a clin­i­cal trial in 2017 af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer

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