Go backGirl Talk: Get the Breast Cancer Info You Need
Jo Franks, a breast surgeon, gives women the space they need to talk about breast cancer issues and decisions.
When diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s crucial that women are given the information they need to select the treatment option that’s right for them. Too often, says leading breast surgeon Joanna Franks, they feel pressured, afraid and ill-informed.
Jo Franks is a breast and oncoplastic surgeon and lead consultant at UCLH (University College London Hospital).
Like many people who become doctors, Jo knew from the age of about two that she wanted to go into medicine, and when the time came to choose her vocation, she chose to become a surgeon: “We treat disease, whereas medics just control it,” she explains. “I decided to specialise in breast surgery because I felt it was a field where I could really make a difference.”
Asked what she particularly loves about her work, Jo explains it’s the chance to connect with patients. “I know I am taking them on a very difficult journey but I want to leave them feeling positive at the other end.” She believes it’s vital for women to feel they have a connection with their medical team: “Everyone is entitled to a second opinion on the NHS—not many people know that. So do be sure you feel comfortable with your surgeon and the entire team—after all, you’re going to be entering into a therapeutic alliance with them.”
Lumpectomy vs. Mastectomy? Take Time to Make the Decision
When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is a huge shock, and naturally it feels like an emergency: She wants to get rid of the cancer as soon as possible and improve her chances of survival. But, says Jo, in most cases the emphasis should be firmly on achieving the right outcome from a woman’s treatment, which requires that she take some time to understand her options.
|“Being told you have breast cancer doesn’t mean you must have an emergency operation,” she explains. “For most people there is time to get information and make a decision. We seek information on much more trivial things—think about buying a car or a house, or changing insurance provider—yet for something as important as this we often just do as we’re told, and sometimes regret it later. A lot of these decisions are absolutely irreversible. It’s really important that women know this, and I believe it’s up to us to empower each other as women.”|
Long-term Breast Surgery Outcomes
Girl Talk: A Pre-surgery Support Group for Breast Cancer
“At our regional plastics unit they run a ‘Show and Tell’ session where women come together and talk about their experience of breast cancer, show their reconstructions and allow others to feel them. Women who are about to have treatment get so much out of these groups, and it shows how confident patients can feel after surgery,” says Jo. “It’s important that there are no surgeons in the group though—this isn’t about what we think about breast surgery, it’s what the women themselves think, and they can only speak openly when we are not there.
“I’d love to see more groups like this taking place. We women are very good at supporting each other —we just need the right environment to do it in.” Local breast cancer support groups and mastectomy boutiques might consider partnering with breast care doctors, who could refer patients to these “pre-surgery” information sessions. It’s just this kind of ‘girl talk’ that really helps patients feel educated, informed, and less alone.
Breast Cancer Support and Care in London
University College London Hospital is a designated centre for young women (up to age 24) with breast cancer, with extra support service facilities and a multi-disciplinary team. “One of my patients, aged under 24 and with two small children, had undergone lots of treatment, including bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and endocrine treatments that produce menopausal effects,” explains Jo. “She was emotionally very down and told me she felt unsupported in her local community—she felt she just had to get back to ‘normal’ really quickly. Meanwhile, her relationship with her husband was suffering. I suggested she go to The Haven in London—a wonderful breast cancer charity with several UK centres. Unfortunately, she felt she couldn’t get there while also providing continuity for her children, whose lives had already been disrupted during her treatment.”
Jo started looking around for other, more local, facilities where her patient could drop in for a coffee and meet up with women going through a similar experience to hers. “That’s how I discovered Future Dreams. Their mission is to open Future Dreams House in London to provide emotional and physical support and therapies to improve the life of anyone affected by breast cancer.”
In 2019 the lease on the building that currently houses The Haven in London will expire, and Future Dreams House will be the new—more central—home to The Haven, providing a lifeline to women and their families who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, those who are undergoing treatment, coping with the issue of survivorship or tackling the devastating news that they have had a relapse. The focus is on providing women with support away from the medical environment and giving them the tools to cope with their diagnosis and with life after treatment.
Jo’s subsequent involvement with Future Dreams led to her becoming a trustee of the charity, which recently collaborated with celebrity swimwear designer Melissa Odabash and Amoena to design a collection of mastectomy swimwear modelled by high profile breast cancer survivor, TV news presenter Jacquie Beltrao.
“I was really impressed by Jacquie’s openness in talking about her breast cancer experience, and I think she’s the ideal ambassador for Future Dreams,” says Jo. “We know that we are achieving more and more success with breast cancer treatment and that the women we’re treating today will live with the effects of their treatment for decades, so it’s really important that they make the right decision".
Facing Breast Cancer Prepared: It Helps to Know what’s Available
“When I do a mastectomy without reconstruction for whatever reason, I tell women there is specially designed mastectomy lingerie, pocketed swimwear and breast prostheses that mean they can do everything they did before, and no-one will ever know. Partial breast shapers and the right lingerie can also help with asymmetry in the case of reconstruction.
“The thing is, if you haven’t had to face this before, you would have no idea what’s out there. Knowledge is power.”
Get the latest content first. Join Club Amoena
LIght Breast Form by PW They really are very light, not like the previous version. Really pleased with my purchased.FROM £120.00
Homemaker by Susan I purchased the Amoena Essential 3S 363 breast forms. I have worn several other brands over the last 20 years, but these are the best. They have the same feel and weight as natural breast, I love the way they move with me, just the right amount of jiggle.Homemaker by Susan I purchased the Amoena Essential 3S 363 breast forms. I have worn several other brands over the last 20 years, but these are the best. They have the same feel and weight as natural breast, I love the way they move with me, just the right amount of jiggle.FROM £120.00
Very pleased by CC After losing a little weight my 3S Breast Form was looking too full. The 2S is perfect and the perfect weight, I always forget I'm wearing a breast form.MRS by M H VERY PLEASED WITH MY NEW BOOBS AND GREAT SERVICEFROM £140.00
produit idéal by PV Se glisse dans la poche du soutient gorge. Très légère, très douce, se lave facilement donc entretien pratique. Parfaite.FROM £120.00
Breast form by LW Very comfortable to wear, fits nicely into bra pocket. Looks and feels natural.Amoeba breast form by MH Really comfortable fit. My first breast form was Amoena - the same as this one - and lasted for 7 years. This is the reason I purchased the same one again. So natural looking.Everyday comfort by E E I have lymphoedema and I've had a double mastectomy. This breast form has been my favourite for some time now. Drapes naturally and the lighter weight makes it comfortable to wear all day.Everyday comfort by EE Delivered promptly. This breast form is so comfortable especially as I'm a bilateral with lymphoedema. The weight and fit are just perfect. A very happy customer.FROM £140.00
Beaucoup de légèreté by Annie CLEMENT Bonjour, J'ai acheté cette prothèse il y a deux mois. Et elle m'a changé la vie, car beaucoup plus légère que mon ancienne environ 360 gr de moins. J'en arrive à oublier que j'ai une prothèse ce qui ait appréciable.Natura Xtra Light 2SN Breast Form by FD I was getting shoulder pain with a normal weight breast form. This is definitely lighter. It is very wide but this does give wider spread than the normal breast form, and so sits more comfortablyComfortable fit by IS First fit, still using pocketed but so much better than kapok filled forms.FROM £150.00