New research from Breast Cancer Care suggests many survivors find treatment ending harder than having a breast removed or going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Shockingly, only 10% say they felt positive and ready to move on when they were discharged from hospital treatment. And, of the over 800 women surveyed, more than half (53%) struggled with anxiety at the end of treatment and nearly a third (31%) with depression.
Yet almost half (42%) of those surveyed were not told by their healthcare team how to access information and support once hospital treatment ended.
Breast Cancer Care is warning women with breast cancer are being left out in the cold at this crucial time in their recovery.
To reach more women at this point, the charity has launched a new app, BECCA, which offers women instant access to support from the moment they finish treatment for as long as they need it.
The survey found three of the toughest issues women face at the end of treatment are:
80% fear their cancer coming back
79% struggle with fatigue
52% struggle with a lack of body confidence
Katie Akerman, 46, from Chichester, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 when her youngest child was just seven months old. She struggled with anxiety after treatment.
“After attending hospital on a weekly basis for treatment, once it’s finished you’re just sent on your way and it feels like nobody is looking out for you anymore. Even family find it hard to understand that, for you, cancer is not over,” she said.
“I couldn’t put a name to it but I just felt panic-stricken. It was extreme over-reaction to things going on around me. I’d worry about my family getting killed in a car crash, or my young son choking in the night. I’d been overseas a lot for work, but suddenly I couldn’t breathe at the thought of getting on a train to London. My anxiety was controlling me and I didn’t have anywhere to turn.
“There needs to be more out there to help women understand what they’re going through and cope with the aftermath of cancer.”
Commenting on the findings, David Crosby, director of services and engagement at Breast Cancer Care, said: “These shocking figures show that, for the majority of women, breast cancer doesn’t stop when hospital treatment ends. Getting back to ‘normal’ can feel like a huge mountain to climb, and many find that leaving hospital after their last appointment is the hardest moment of all.
“Around 691,000 people are alive in the UK after a diagnosis of breast cancer, and the numbers are only set to rise. Those who have faced breast cancer have already been through enough, and should not be left to cope alone with ongoing mental health issues, debilitating physical side effects and constant fear of what lies ahead.
“The NHS must ensure every breast cancer patient has access to support once their hospital treatment ends. Despite commitments to make this happen, there has been worryingly little progress to turn this promise into reality.″