CHARITIES in East Lancashire have backed calls for breast cancer patients to be given better access to support after their hospital treatment.

Barnoldswick-based Bosom Friends and Blackburn & East Lancs Breast Care Support Group both agreed with a survey which revealed many women found being discharged from hospital care one of the hardest moments to face in their cancer battle.

The Breast Cancer Care survey of 800 British women, who had undergone treatment for breast cancer, found that more than a quarter said their hospital treatment was harder than having a breast removed or going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Only one in 10 said they felt positive and ready to move on when they were discharged from hospital treatment.

Just over half, 53 per cent, said they struggled with anxiety at the end of treatment and 31 per cent said they suffered with depression, according to the charity, which has just launched a new app BECCA offering support for women when they finish treatment.

Campaigner Ruth Loft, of the Blackburn and East Lancashire Breast Care Support Group, said that in many cases support can ‘stop’ for women once they’ve received treatment for cancer.

Ms Loft said: “It’s quite understandable that women feel the way they do in this survey.

“When they’ve had surgery and treatment and are visiting the hospital, they feel more confident as the support is there.

“But this can stop when they’re back out there after finishing treatment.”

Ms Loft said the group work closely with Burnley General Hospital, who provide a lot of cancer services in the area, to get the message out there about the support available.

The group, which meets once a month at Beardwood Hospital, Preston New Road, Blackburn, also provides support for breast cancer sufferers and women worried about breast problems.

While the group also holds weekly fitness classes at St Silas Church parish centre in Preston New Road, Blackburn.

Ms Loft said: “Information packs are provided to patients as well as regular information days at Burnley hospital which give details of support groups and networks available in East Lancashire.

“So there is support and people shouldn’t feel isolated, but I can understand women feeling the way they do and it’s about raising awareness of services and support groups that can help them.”

Mary Brennan, the founder and trustee of Barnoldswick and Earby Bosom Friends, who support people affected by cancer in the Pendle, Ribble Valley, and Craven areas, said many women feel they are ‘left in limbo’ once they have finished breast cancer treatment.

Ms Brennan said: “We hold regular meetings for people affected by breast cancer and other cancers to have a chat and to offer them support, so they don’t feel like they have nothing.

“We speak to many women who feel that once they get home from treatment, that they’re not happy and feel like they’ve been left in limbo.

“More support is needed from health services but groups such as ours try and bridge that gap.”

Jane McNicholas, Clinical Lead for Breast Surgery at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "ELHT recognises the fact that women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer face many more difficulties than recovering physically. To this end, women and men diagnosed with breast cancer are regularly assessed by their Clinical Nurse Specialist in order to identify individual needs in relation to physical, psychological and social care requirements. A care plan is then developed to address these needs.

"Everyone diagnosed with a breast cancer has access to a named Breast Care Specialist Nurse from diagnosis and beyond discharge from clinical surveillance, to provide telephone support and access to services that support psychological health and well-being.

"We are fortunate within ELHT to have access to Clinical Psychology services to provide high level support to our patients. In addition, Pendleside, Rossendale and East Lancashire Hospices offer counselling services to women affected by breast cancer along with complementary therapies designed to ease anxiety.

"Throughout East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, there is a network of support groups where women can share their experiences and gain encouragement from others who have been through similar experiences. All women diagnosed with breast cancer receive information about these services at diagnosis.

"We also recognise the benefits of exercise in lowering levels of depression and anxiety and all of our patients have access to the Macmillan Move More programme which encourages people to exercise to improve mood and general health.

"The most recent National Cancer Patient Experience Service results highlight that ELHT scored the same as the national average for people being able to access support groups and above the national average for support received from the local health service following the completion of treatment."