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Mum-of-two with incurable secondary breast cancer features in national campaign

PUBLISHED: 12:56 25 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:20 25 October 2019

Judy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, features in the Breast Cancer Now campaign The Unsurvivors. Picture: Simon Parkin

Judy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, features in the Breast Cancer Now campaign The Unsurvivors. Picture: Simon Parkin

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A mother of two being treated in Norfolk is part of a national campaign calling for improvements to support, treatment and care for those with incurable secondary breast cancer.

Judy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, in a still from the video for the campaign The Unsurvivors. Picture: Breast Cancer NowJudy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, in a still from the video for the campaign The Unsurvivors. Picture: Breast Cancer Now

Judy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, who was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2017, is one of 14 women featured in a video for Breast Cancer Now's campaign 'The Unsurvivors'.

She is one of an estimated 35,000 people living with secondary breast cancer, where breast cancer spreads to another part of the body, such as the bones, liver, lungs, skin or brain.

While the disease can be treated to help patients live well for as long as possible, it remains incurable. If left untreated, it continues to spread and symptoms are likely to worsen and have a greater impact on daily life.

Judy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, is happy with her care after being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer but others are not so lucky. Picture: Simon ParkinJudy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, is happy with her care after being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer but others are not so lucky. Picture: Simon Parkin

The 47-year-old mother of two young boys, aged five and 10, said: "I got involved because Breast Cancer Now were looking for people to take part on a focus group on this campaign.

"I never had primary breast cancer, so I can speak for people with the secondary side of it and that is another reason why I got involved."

The campaign, which includes a petition calling for improved services, comes as the charity publishes findings from the largest ever UK survey of those living with incurable secondary breast cancer.

Judy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, is one of 14 women who tell their stories in the campaign The Unsurvivors that calls for better treatment. Picture: Breast Cancer NowJudy Willowe, from Palgrave, near Diss, is one of 14 women who tell their stories in the campaign The Unsurvivors that calls for better treatment. Picture: Breast Cancer Now

It found that nearly one in four respondents previously treated for breast cancer had to visit their GP three or more times with symptoms before being diagnosed with the return and spread of the disease.

More than a quarter were not given the name of a clinical nurse specialist at diagnosis and only 30pc said they saw one regularly.

Mrs Willowe, who is being treated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: "I have been really lucky because I was urgently referred to the hospital and they saw me within two weeks. I have had really good care there. I have a specialist breast cancer nurse who I see regularly and she helps me navigate through it. Quite honestly I'd be lost without her really.

"But a lot of people aren't having that experience. A lot go to the GP numerous times because they can even get a diagnosis, and obviously a delay is the worst thing you can have."

- Learn more and sign the petition at action.breastcancernow.org/unsurvivors

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