Patient story: ‘Personalised cancer care’

"I know I'm in the best hands at a leading cancer centre"

nurse with a patient

Dianne was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2015 after noticing a stretch mark on her breast.

She says: “I didn’t think much of it, just that I was getting older! But after speaking to a colleague, she encouraged me to go and get it checked out.”

An appointment with the GP confirmed that further investigation was needed, and through her insurance Dianne was referred to The Royal Marsden where she met with Ms Jenny Rusby, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon. 

“They did lots of scans,” Dianne explains, “but it was only when they did an ultrasound that they saw something.”

A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of bilateral invasive lobular breast cancer. Dianne had radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and in March 2016 a procedure to remove the four affected lymph nodes. Later that year in May she had a double mastectomy with a DIEP flap, undertaken by Ms Rusby, and Mr Kelvin Ramsey, Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon. A DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap operation is where skin, fat, muscle and blood vessels from the patient’s abdomen are used to reconstruct the breast after cancerous tissue is removed.

Dianne’s treatment was initially successful and in July 2016 she received the welcome news that there was no evidence of the disease.

She says: “In June 2016 I was prescribed hormone therapy - Letrozole - and continued on cycle nine of my chemotherapy, trastuzumab, with my final dose in January 2017. 

"I went through the stage of thinking I’d left cancer behind. But less than a year later in March 2017 I started to have pins and needles in my arm. My sons phoned the doctors who thought I was having a mini stroke and said I needed to get to my local hospital as soon as possible.”

“Fortunately that wasn’t the case. But the scans revealed something else – that my cancer had returned, and I was diagnosed with brain metastasis.

“I had 11 tumours in my brain. I knew straight away I wanted to get back to The Royal Marsden. They were absolutely brilliant and put together a personalised treatment plan for me.”

Personalised cancer care is at the heart of The Royal Marsden’s approach, with every patient receiving a unique treatment plan. This is discussed and agreed by a multidisciplinary team of experts, including medical oncologists, surgeons, radiotherapists, pathologists, radiologists, nurses and allied health professionals.  

Dianne had whole brain radiotherapy with Dr Anna Kirby, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, before starting chemotherapy, and so far she’s responded really well to treatment.

“My tumours have shrunk quite drastically. Some of the smaller ones are hardly there and one big mass has shrunk by over 60%. Because of where they are they’re not inoperable, but my consultant Dr Alistair Ring has been absolutely fantastic in  monitoring how I’m doing.”

Dr Ring is a Consultant Medical Oncologist and one of the lead breast cancer clinicans at The Royal Marsden. He specialises in all aspects of the medical treatment for breast cancer, and has been at the forefront of major research in this field.

Dianne adds: “I just can’t explain enough how fantastic the staff at The Royal Marsden were, and have nothing but praise for them. Dr Ring and my CNS Karen were so supportive when I was diagnosed again, and I know I’m in the best hands at a leading cancer centre.

“I have noticed some changes - such as a very short term memory - but otherwise have been able to manage my symptoms really well. It means I can get back to doing the things I love, like spending time with my children and my five grandchildren.”