Care For Your Pair - Carmel's story
Clinical trials – 'It’s nice to be part of something bigger’
After finishing her course of radiotherapy for early stage breast cancer in October 2020, Carmel O’Donohoe wanted to do something to help other patients in future as well as bridge the post-treatment gap between home and hospital.
Carmel is currently on the other side of a diagnosis of early oestrogen-based breast cancer and is on a five-year course of hormonal treatment for this type of breast cancer, which represents 80% of all breast cancer diagnoses.
During the course of her treatment last year Carmel was told about the Add-Aspirin trial, an international clinical trial involving 11,000 participants across three countries to test the speculated effectiveness of aspirin in reducing recurrences of early stage cancers.
Carmel was under the care of Prof Janice Walshe whose team in St Vincent’s University Hospital was involved in the trial through Cancer Trials Ireland, a body supported by the Irish Cancer Society.
“The researchers believe that there may be some relation between taking aspirin and a lower incidence of cancer recurring, but they need clinical evidence to bear this out. I had a couple of sessions with my oncologist and the cancer trials nurse to see if it would be something that I would be suited to,” Carmel describes of the process.
“The Add-Aspirin trial provides a way for researchers to be sure that aspirin is having a real effect in terms of treating cancer, in that it is a randomised trial with similar groups of people taking either aspirin or a dummy pill, and after five years there will be enough clinical evidence to indicate if aspirin has a benefit in preventing the recurrence of cancer.
“I did 8 weeks of a trial run to check that the aspirin would agree with me, prior to randomisation. I took a diary and reported on how I got on, and I had my blood pressure measured and did blood tests and cognitive tests to see whether I would be suitable for it. I was then asked if I was happy to proceed with the trial, on the basis that I could opt out at any time.
“I had a read of the website and did some of my own research as I had some concerns but I was happy that the benefits outweighed any risks that I am aware of, so I’m taking it under supervised observation and every three months I go in for tests to see how I’m getting on.
“The other reason I wanted to do it was to do with social and community considerations – why wouldn’t you be part of something bigger, especially if they do conclude after five or six years that aspirin is highly beneficial, and it’s such a cheap drug. It would be nice to be part of that.”
The Add-Aspirin trial in which Carmel is involved is a fully medically-supervised trial that is attempting to establish evidence around the theory that aspirin may help to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, and patients should always consult with their doctor before making any changes to their medication regime.
When it comes to patients asking their treating team about trials that could be of benefit to them and others, based on her own experience so far Carmel has no hesitation in recommending that people ask the question and examine the options available to them.
“The team are absolutely fantastic: the word professional doesn’t do them justice, they really are just so good.
“There is added benefit for someone like me who is now the other side of active treatment; there comes a point when your appointments start to dwindle so any extra bit of monitoring, surveillance and a link in with your hospital is no bad thing.”
Learn more about breast health and about how you can support breast cancer patients this October.
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