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Jane's Story

My background

After training as a dietitian, I worked overseas in Papua New Guinea for 11 years for Save the Children Fund, before becoming an academic. I have worked for various universities in teaching and research and now work part-time, supporting public health research students. Although I have a research background, I also have experience of being a carer for my late husband as well as being a patient.


Experience of research as a patient

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer late 2001. Following surgery, I was asked if I wanted to take part in a clinical trial. After finding out more about what this would entail. I decided that I could not cope with taking part at that time.  At the end of 2014 metastatic (or secondary) breast cancer was diagnosed. I was asked again to take part in a clinical trial. This time, I did take part in the study, for six months. I am also in a large genetic study called ‘Understanding the Genomic Basis for Human Disease’ in which links between genes and familial breast cancer as well as other conditions, are investigated. As well as finding out whether other members of my family are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer, there is the potential to tailor cancer treatment based on an individual’s genetic make-up. For this study I only had to provide one blood sample.


Why is NHS research important?

In a nutshell, if there was no research there would be no advancements in the medical field. I know from my own cancer treatment of the progress that has been made between 2002 and the present time. For example there are more drugs available and current chemotherapy drugs are more likely to kill the tumour cells than healthy cells, resulting in fewer side effects. Some drugs can now be given as tablets rather than through an infusion into the veins, meaning less use of needles and fewer visits to the hospital. The scans available now are more sophisticated; it is easier to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and know when it needs to be changed. All of these advances have been made possible because of research.


My message to others who are considering getting involved in research

Research is not just for academics or health professionals! Everyone can contribute to research and play a part in finding solutions to medical problems, thereby improving treatment and patient care. You, a member of your family or a friend may be asked to take part in research study. You will be provided with information on what this will entail and can ask questions before making a decision. You can also be a member of the Patient and Public Research Advisory Group. You can make a difference to the NHS by being involved in research.