Call for life-long support for breast cancer patients from specialists

Recovered breast cancer patients need life-long support from specialist units, rather than relying on GPs, say experts.

Guidelines over how women with a history of breast cancer are followed-up must be overhauled to ensure any recurrent or new cases of breast cancer are detected quickly, say Mr Michael Dixon, clinical director at the Edinburgh Breast Unit, and colleagues.

A mammographic surveillance programme specifically for these patients and quick, direct access to specialist units is key, they claim.

Existing NICE guidelines on follow-up for breast cancer in patients in England and Wales, published in 2002, were designed to detect and treat local recurrence, deal with effects of treatment and provide psychological support.

NICE advises frequent follow-up in the first two to three years, but deems long-term follow-up and mammography as ineffective and unwarranted.

But Mr Dixon said: ‘The guidelines are not fit for purpose; they're not meeting their aims.'

rachel.liddle@haymarket.com

British Medical Journal

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