YORK Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has announced it is working with cancer charities and patients to offer the best possible care to people diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.

York and Scarborough Hospitals have been working with Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Care to make improvements, which include allocating each secondary breast cancer patient a named key worker to act as an advocate, to co-ordinate care and provide support and information as needed on a one-to-one basis.

Other improvements have been identified through patient questionnaires, and patients were also included in discussions to agree on the best way to go about making changes.

Of the 50,000 women and 400 men diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, it is still not known exactly how many of these patients will go on to develop secondary breast cancer – cancer that has spread beyond the breast or armpit to other parts of the body.

Secondary breast cancer cannot be cured but it can be treated and controlled, sometimes for a number of years.

Margaret Ralph, 70, from York who was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2012, said: “Being told that your cancer has spread is an incredibly frightening time and when you hear those words it can be very difficult to process the information you are being given.

“One of the goals set out today is to ensure that a nurse either sits-in on this appointment with you or makes contact within five working days to ensure that any changes being made to your treatment plan are understood and answer any questions you may have once the news has sunk in.

“It is such a good idea to get input from patients themselves, as we are the ones who know what it is like to live with cancer. I’m proud to have had a hand in what I hope will be some really useful changes for other patients like myself in the near future.”

Jackie Frazer, Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist at York Hospital, said: “Listening to patients’ experiences is invaluable and that’s why this project has been so important.

“We are constantly looking at ways to enhance the care we offer and the development of our pledge has allowed us to get a full picture not only of what we are doing well but also what we can be doing to improve our service in future to ensure that we are giving people the best care possible.

“We look forward to implementing the changes highlighted and I also want to thank all of the team here and the surveyed patients who have worked so hard over the past year on this.”