Northern Ireland news

Secondary breast cancer patients benefitting from north's first dedicated nurse

Gemma Potter, Friends of the Cancer Centre’s secondary breast cancer nurse
Suzanne McGonagle

PATIENTS with incurable secondary breast cancer are benefitting from the support of Northern Ireland’s first and only dedicated nurse to help deal with their condition.

Gemma Potter has been appointed as a secondary breast cancer nurse, a role funded by the Friends of the Cancer Centre and based in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Secondary breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer, occurs when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Whilst treatment options are available to help control the cancer, improve quality of life and help people live longer, there is sadly no cure.

It is estimated there will be approximately 70 new diagnosis of secondary breast cancer each year within the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, with this number expected to rise as people diagnosed with primary breast cancer increases.

As well as supporting those newly diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, the nurse is a source of ongoing support for those living longer thanks to new and improved treatments for the disease.

Ms Potter joins Friends of the Cancer Centre’s existing oncology breast cancer clinical nurse specialist to provide support across the patient pathway.

They are on hand to support patients through the complex physical and emotional effects of the disease, coordinate treatment and care, signpost to support services and act as a direct point of contact for questions or concerns.

Colleen Shaw, chief executive of Friends of the Cancer Centre, said: "Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women locally and while there is wonderful support available to patients with a primary diagnosis, including support through surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, there has been a significant gap in support for those with secondary breast cancer.

"By funding Gemma’s post, Friends of the Cancer Centre has helped bridge this gap, ensuring that those with secondary breast cancer have the dedicated support they need.

"Gemma is already making a real difference and we know she will continue to provide vital support for a very important patient group."

Ms Potter said she feels "privileged" to be appointed to the role that enables her to "provide much needed support to patients at a really difficult time".

"Receiving a secondary breast cancer diagnosis is distressing and people will have many questions and worries," she said.

"I hope to alleviate some of those concerns by being a source of support from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.

"As well as helping to coordinate treatment and appointments, I also support people through the emotional and psychological impact their diagnosis has on them and their family.

"I am just a phone call away should a patient have any queries or concerns, which can give comfort and reassurance at a really worrying time."


Northern Ireland news