More than a third of women with advanced breast cancer are living in pain despite drugs being available to help them, according to new research.
A study of 235 British women found 34% were living with high levels of pain and other uncontrolled symptoms, 27% had shortness of breath and 26% experienced nausea.
Medication can help manage symptoms of nausea and shortness of breath while other drugs can control the vast majority of cancer pain.
The study, funded by Breast Cancer Campaign and published in Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, involved women whose cancer had spread to other organs filling in a detailed questionnaire.
The researchers, from the University of Southampton, found women whose breast cancer had spread to their bones were more likely to experience pain, with 44% reporting significant pain.
Overall, women had low levels of satisfaction with the care they were receiving and there was "little evidence of involvement of general practitioners and palliative care services" for the women. Given the choice, 62% of women chose their hospital consultant as the healthcare professional they would choose to see on a regular basis.
More than half of women had been living with their secondary breast cancer for two years or more yet many were not at the end-of-life stage so did not get palliative care, despite their pain.
The authors concluded: "Despite improvements in treatment and survival of women with metastatic breast cancer, this group reports high symptom burden and dissatisfaction with elements of their care, indicating that alternative models of service delivery should be explored."
Elizabeth Reed, research manager at Breast Cancer Care and principal investigator of the research, said: "Developments in treatment mean that those living with secondary breast cancer are now considered cancer survivors rather than necessarily at the end of life.
"It is therefore vital that healthcare professionals are equipped with the knowledge and expertise they need to offer women with secondary breast cancer adequate symptom control and the medical and psychological support they need."
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