I was 32 years old and still breastfeeding my youngest child when I found a lump in my left breast. Subsequent tests identified the lump as Oestrogen receptor positive Invasive Ductal Carcinoma breast cancer, and my whole world was turned upside down. After receiving treatment including Lumpectomy surgery, four months of Chemotherapy and 7 weeks of Radiotherapy, I was clear of cancer. However, being a young woman without a family history of cancer and no lifestyle associated risk factors, although statistically my chances of survival were very good, I still felt that I wasn’t in control of my health outcomes.
The multidisciplinary medical team assigned to treat my cancer recommended that I receive hormonal therapy for the next 5 years. At this stage, I was offered the chance to become involved in the Australian Clinical Trials SOFT trial. This clinical trial assigned patients with a randomised selection of one of three different treatment methods – all of which were safe and the best treatments available for my type of breast cancer at the time. After considering the pros and cons of becoming involved in such a study, I decided that I had nothing to lose – in fact becoming part of this trial would only be of benefit to myself and others.
Firstly, I received the best treatment available for Oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer in young women. My treatment was monitored regularly by a Trials Coordinator and my doctors. This support in the years following treatment was crucial to my wellbeing, as the regular contact with health professionals gave me the reassurance and motivation that I needed to keep maintaining mental and physical health. The Clinical Trials Co-ordinator has been a constant source of knowledge and inspiration, and always someone to talk to in-confidence.
Furthermore, I have the satisfaction that the data that I provided to researchers has contributed to the understanding of the behaviour of my type of breast cancer. The research data that these trials provide is essential to determining the best treatments and outcomes for breast cancer survivors. It is not only a form of insurance policy for myself and my family, but for every woman that is at risk of being faced with this life changing disease.
The process of being involved in these trials is not difficult nor time-consuming. By participating in a trial, you will be rewarded with the sense of contentment through undertaking a very important role that contributes to the health of wider community. Your involvement is helping researchers to make a difference in the lives of others. It has been almost 10 years since my initial diagnosis and I am very grateful for the opportunity that I have had to contribute to the wellbeing of past, current and future breast cancer patients.