Woman with incurable breast cancer says Wales is 'badly letting down' people with the disease

  • Video report by ITV Wales Health Reporter Katie Fenton

A 30-year-old woman with incurable breast cancer is demanding the Welsh Government provide better care to patients who she believes are being badly let down by the system.

Tassia Haines, from Port Talbot, wants more resources to support patients in Wales, as the country currently only has one secondary breast cancer specialist nurse.

Tassia says the current system leaves hundreds of people with metastatic breast cancer - when the cancer spreads to an area farther from where it started - without the adequate support they need.

Tassia was aged 24 when she was first diagnosed with primary breast cancer. Doctors then discovered that she had secondary breast cancer four years later when she was 28.

Secondary breast cancer can occur when a patient with primary breast cancer presents symptoms and is not seen in enough time and the condition spreads to other areas of the body.

For Tassia, despite thinking that she would get more support after her secondary diagnosis, she says that has definitely not been the case.

"When you get secondary breast cancer a lot of patients, including myself, are pretty much on your own after diagnosis."

Tassia is a local street artist and has used her talent to raise awareness of secondary breast cancer.

She says the Welsh Government must act now to help people going through their diagnosis and beyond with more secondary specialist nurses. She says they would not only help with the treatment process but also with the emotional support that's needed.

"The reason we want secondary nurses is so we can have that familiar face and consistent point of contact and care in between all the radiographers and all the doctors and also the holistic needs too.

"I can't have a family, I can't have children, I can't afford my own funeral because I'm not allowed to work, it comes up with a whole host of problems which aren't being addressed.

"It's bad enough that you feel like you've had your identity taken away from you with your treatments and your cancer, but also the fact that there's no one there and you don't know what's going on, and I've spoken to a lot of patients in Wales and we all feel that."

In response to the situation, Tassia set up a petition calling on the Welsh Government to provide urgent help. It has received over 14,000 signatures and is now being debated in the Senedd to see what more support the Welsh Government can offer.

One in three women who have primary breast cancer go on to get secondary and Tassia says that it's not spoken enough in fear of scaring people.

"It's the leading cause of death between women 35 and 64 in the UK, it's massive and we just don't have the resources."

In January 2020, after beginning to present symptoms again, Tassia was assessed nine times and continued to be turned away, until eventually being properly diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.

She says she was even sent for physiotherapy whilst trying to tell medics that her pain wasn't going away.

In response to the petition, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Specialist cancer nurses play an important and valuable role in delivering high-quality care and supporting people and their families through cancer.

"We expect people with metastatic breast cancer to be supported by a multi-disciplinary team, including specialist nurses. It is for health boards to decide how to deploy their workforce to meet professional standards.

"A new cancer information system is currently under development that will provide better data on metastatic cancer and next year a national clinical audit will be introduced for metastatic breast cancer to support improvements in the quality of care."

The Welsh Government also said that the number of registered nurses in Wales continues to increase and training places have risen by 68% over the last five years.

It added that Health Education and Improvement Wales is leading on the development of a new workforce plan for nursing.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is also said to be in the process of appointing three specialist nurses for secondary breast cancer.

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