Hilary’s story of EXPERT trial participation

13 August 2019

“Having a cancer diagnosis makes you realise there are many different kinds of cancer and that the medical profession is constantly trying to discover how best to deal with the disease”.

Last year I had breast conserving surgery for a stage two cancer, picked up by mammogram. Among all the emotions you go through with a cancer diagnosis, there was a small sense of relief that mine had been found at an early stage by having regular mammograms, as it would have been too small to be detected otherwise. 

I was asked at Waikato Hospital if I’d be interested in participating in the EXPERT trial if I was a suitable candidate – and this brought another little glimmer of light  that in some way I could help the search for better cancer treatments.

Before my surgery, I’d been told that the follow-up treatment would be several weeks of radio therapy plus hormone therapy.

This initiated late night web searches about potential side effects and the effectiveness of radio therapy for breast cancer. I found out more than I really wanted to know about radiotherapy, but also learned that there is some doubt as to whether it is necessary for all types of breast cancer and that the only way of finding out was to carry out clinical trials like EXPERT.

Fifty years ago the only treatment for breast cancer was a radical mastectomy followed by cobalt radiotherapy and it’s only through clinical trials that breast conserving surgery has become the norm for low risk cancers like mine.

Knowing more about the treatment options and having information about potential side effects and what type of cancer I had, helped me feel more comfortable about making a decision for my own treatment.

As we live on the Coromandel Peninsula, I travel three hours each way to attend appointments, but I feel it’s important to be involved in research which will help the treatment of other women, and also so that I can benefit from the long term follow-up that the study provides.