You, Me and the Big C podcast highlights the devastating effect of cancer recurrence

Inspiring BBC podcast deals with the realities of living with a cancer diagnosis 

I have been following BBC radio presenter Rachael Bland as she has shared her cancer story. She is part of the BBC Radio 5 Live's You, Me and the Big C team along with Deborah James and Lauren Mahon. All three have or have had cancer at a young age, and their podcast brings a refreshing perspective on a cancer diagnosis by exploring some very personal issues in a light-hearted way.

From left: Rachael Bland, Lauren Mahon, Deborah James, presenters of the You, Me and the Big C podcast. Picture: BBC

In May, Rachael gave an emotional account of receiving the call that revealed her cancer had returned and it was incurable. There is never an easy way to be told this news. I thought about what the call meant for her, but I also thought about the person on the other end, who must have known that their call would change so much. Rachael later revealed that the cancer had spread to her skin, bones, liver, lung – basically everywhere. This is after being diagnosed for two years and undergoing multiple treatments. 

Recurrence rates

I felt extremely moved and it reminded me that although great strides have been made, particularly in the field of breast cancer, it is by no means sorted. Breast cancer recurrences peak in the first couple of years in about 10-15% of all cases. Although rates decline, the risk of recurrence remains up to and beyond 20 years after the initial occurrence.  

It is never easy to have the conversation with someone that their cancer may return or progress. However, it seems as though many people affected by cancer do want to share these concerns. This may be particularly heightened for others when someone like Rachael, who is in the public eye, shares her story. 

The least we can do as nurses is understand why cancer recurs or progresses so we can help people make sense of their changed situation. Also, there is a lot of support on offer out there and we should never assume that people know what's available.

Further information

You, Me and the Big C podcast

About the author

Susanne Cruickshank @Sue_Cruickshank, chair of the RCN cancer and breast care forum

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