Supporting young women through breast cancer – In conversation with… Ms Anushka Chaudhry
In her role as an oncoplastic breast surgeon, Ms Anushka Chaudhry is a passionate advocate for supporting younger women going through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
To kick off our second ‘In conversation with…’ series – featuring leading physicians from around the world – Ms Chaudhry of the Great Western Hospitals NHS Trust spoke with us about the impact of breast cancer on younger women.
During our conversation we discussed the barriers that women under 45 face in the UK screening system and why it’s so important to be breast aware. Plus, Ms Chaudhry told us how her passion for this subject led her to found her own charity for patients.
Later in our conversation, Ms Chaudhry shared her advice on breast screening post COVID vaccination before we heard how Magseed® and Magtrace® are helping to significantly streamline breast services during the ongoing pandemic.
How breast cancer affects young women differently
Ms Chaudhry told us how of the 55,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year roughly, 5,000 will be under the age of 45. This means that they won’t receive routine screenings and the onus is on them to be continuously aware of how their breasts are developing and changing.
“The difficulties that young women have is that they really don’t know what they’re looking for. So despite all the health awareness campaigns we see time and time again about checking your breasts – it’s not clear what it means because there is such a spectrum of what’s normal. I take it upon myself to really try and help with that education.”
"Know what's normal for you so if anything changes, you can get seen."Ms Anushka Chaudhry
We also spoke of the psychosocial issues associated with young women going through treatment. The need to address the unspoken issues such as parenthood, body image and self-confidence is key.
“I think the only way to really address the gaps are to ask the women directly, ask them in a very focused and safe way and then look to our skills to see how we can develop a program to help them.”
Setting up the Aurora charity to help young women with breast cancer
To help support younger women through their psychosocial concerns, Ms Chaudhry told us how she set up her own charity for both women going through treatment and those who have completed their treatment. The Aurora charity, based in Wiltshire was set up in 2015, providing open and welcoming wellbeing events to allow women to feel ‘like a queen for a day’.
“They receive educational seminars on nutrition, wellbeing, dealing with fear and anxiety, relationships, child psychology and how to answer those really difficult questions. We also provide them with wellness activities, such as yoga and mindfulness.”
As a result of the pandemic, Aurora has been forced to adapt their programs over the last 12 months. However, support has continued to be offered online, with a supportive community helping to battle issues such as isolation and depression.
Attending screenings after a COVID vaccination
There has been a lot of conversation recently around vaccinations to protect against COVID-19, with a common side effect being enlarged lymph nodes. We asked Ms Chaudhry what her advice would be to women concerned about screening after their vaccination.
“Really I think that women should consider still going along for their mammogram. There may have already been a delay and I’m sure that some are keen to get on and have the mammogram that they’ve been waiting for from their last interval.”
"Be assured that the colleagues who read the mammograms are aware if a woman has had a vaccine. There's a conversation to be had. There are people there to guide you.”Ms Anushka Chaudhry
As the UK’s vaccine rollout has continued at a rapid rate – 30 million have now received at least one vaccination – we were interested to find out how this would impact hospitals across the country.
“What we’re seeing in breast units across the UK is a huge increase in referrals. But we’re having to be very conscious of maintaining the safety and distancing of patients within those units.”
"With technologies like Magseed and the Magtrace, we're able to really streamline that [patient journey].”Ms Anushka Chaudhry
Ms Chaudhry shared how Magseed® is helping with decoupling radiology and surgery and keeping patients safe through limited contact with other areas of the hospital. Both the breast unit and patients have been pleased with the technology.
“They have the confidence that if there were any concerns with COVID, the tumour is at least going to be localised, ready to go for when they can be rescheduled again.”
Enjoyed this first episode of our new series? Watch more interviews from our first series here.