Chai’s ‘Ask the Expert: Breast Cancer & Covid-19 webinar

On the evening of Tuesday 19th May over 1000 people tuned in from all over the world to participate in a webinar hosted by Chai Cancer Care on ‘Breast Cancer & Covid-19’ with Miss Joanna Franks – Consultant Breast & Oncoplastic Surgeon UCLH in conversation with Dr Adrian Tookman – Clinical Director, Marie Curie Care.

There was a live question box where many participants had the opportunity to write in their various queries and receive expert advice from the two specialists. The webinar was informative, covering important topics such as symptom checking, what to expect in a breast clinic visit and managing a breast cancer diagnosis in Covid-19.

Joanna pointed out that alarmingly there has been a 50-60% drop of new referrals since the pandemic and stressed that if a woman develops a breast cancer, there are cancer hubs that are Covid-free divided across London. Reassuringly she added that majority of women who come to her one stop clinic result in not having cancer but urged people who notice any significant symptoms or changes to go to their GP.

“If I have 20 people coming into the one stop clinic, I intend to send back, 19 reassuring them that they do not have breast cancer. If you notice any significant symptoms, or changes, have discussed this with your GP and have been sent to a one stop clinic and you receive no diagnosis, no one would be upset – only relieved that no further action needs to be taken.”

Finally, despite the hard-hitting statistics on the rate of fatalities due to Covid-19, the webinar ended on a positive note, with both Joanna and Dr Tookman reiterating that although the virus can be unpredictable, they have both treated cancer patients who had recovered from coronavirus.

Praise flooded in from many participants who tuned in, the words ‘reassuring’ and ‘informative’ used most often to describe the webinar.  In addition, many of Chai’s clients thanked Chai for being a constant support for them, especially during these times of uncertainty.

As Chai chairman Louise Hager put it,

“Covid- 19 has affected us all in one way or another and enormity of this for cancer patients and their loved ones is undeniable. Whilst Chai’s doors may not be open physically, we are continuing to provide our care and support through telephone, Skype and Zoom. Adapting to the changes is the focus for all of us at Chai, but you don’t need to take my word for it. I am going to share a quote from a client who recently told us,

‘Normality has stopped, some cancer treatments even had to stop, Yet Chai has not stopped and is still here for me.’”