Read the latest news from the Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust.

A trial participants journey

My story started with a routine mammogram in 2011 that picked up cancer tumours in my right breast.  The tumours were removed as were 35 lymph nodes from my right armpit. I came through the chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment reasonably unscathed and felt like I had dodged a bullet.

It wasn’t until 5 ½ years later that I developed lymphoedema. My right arm had swelled up five times the size of my left arm.  The main treatment available to me is to wear a compression sleeve 24 hours a day for the rest of my life.  Wearing the sleeve over the hot summer has been uncomfortable to say the least.  Random people ask me what happened to my arm so I tell them I was bitten by a snake.  That usually shuts them up. Last winter my long sleeved tops would fit my left arm but not the right which caused a wardrobe nightmare.

I heard about the lymph node grafting trial and was eager to be part of it.  I was accepted as a participant and had the minor surgical procedure.  18 months later the swelling in my arm has reduced by two thirds and I now fit my clothes again.  If the outcome for me is that I can stop wearing the compression sleeve then I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.

I would highly recommend the lymph node grafting trial to other women with lymphedema, as it has given me hope for a normal future.

Welcome Annie

Annie Shewan has joined our team as PA for Dr Ian Campbell (WBCRT Chair, Breast & General Surgeon and Associate Professor), and assist with admin duties for our team. Annie comes from a strong background in administration working with the then known Telecom and more recently Te Wānganga O Te Aotearoa.

Welcome Annie!


Waikato researchers are now seeking participants with breast cancer related lymphoedema for a larger clinical trial to determine whether lymph node grafting produces a greater reduction in lymphoedema volume and improved quality of life, compared with standard treatment.

Lymphoedema is a condition experienced by 10-20% of people who undergo axillary lymph node dissection – an operation often performed as part of breast cancer surgery.  The current standard of care for lymphoedema is conservative management which includes self-administered massage, therapeutic exercise, and use of a compression garment.

When conservative management does not help enough, surgery can be considered.  There is some evidence to suggest that transferring lymph nodes from elsewhere in the body to the affected limb can help to reduce the size of the affected arm.

A new, surgical technique, called lymph node grafting, has been developed and tested in a pilot study in the Waikato. The results of the pilot study demonstrated that lymph node grafting showed promise as a treatment for moderately severe treatment-resistant lymphedema.

Local researchers need further evidence to be certain that this technique is safe and effective, and to standardise and develop the lymph node grafting technique further.  In both the pilot study, and to date in the clinical trial there have been some patients who have experienced a reduction in lymphoedema, but also some who have not.  We need to learn more about why this is the case. We also need to ensure that lymph node grafting doesn’t make lymphoedema of the arm worse, and doesn’t lead to lymphoedema of the donor leg.

Participants who agree to participate will be randomly assigned to either:

  • the control group (standard care): Will receive standard lymphoedema therapy alone. This includes self-administered massage, therapeutic exercise, use of a compression sleeve and skin/nail care; OR
  • the intervention group: Will undergo lymph node grafting surgery as well as standard lymphoedema therapy.

Waikato Plastic Surgeon Mr Winston McEwan who has developed the lymph node grafting technique, is heading this trial.

For more information, or if you or anyone you know  may be interested in this research, please contact Heather Flay, Research Nurse on telephone 07 8398726 Ext 97960 or email; or Jenni Scarlet, Research Nurse on phone 07 8398726 Ext 97916 or email

To our valued supporters, sponsors, volunteers, family and friends

A very big thank you to those who dig deep to help in so many ways small and large.

For being a; fundraising host, bucket shaker, donor, helper at events, a kind ear, or a supporter extraordinaire.We are very grateful to each and everyone of you. Thank you for  being a BrEaST friend and helping us “never let it rest”!

When we all work for a great cause, we all win!

Our Christmas message to you

The team at Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust thank you for the wonderful support you have given over this year to enable the road of hope through research trials and projects.

We send our very best wishes to you and your family to share the spirit of Christmas, and abundant health and happiness for the coming year.

The better we understand it, the BEST we can fight it. 

Tamahere Market

We were so blessed to have an extraordinary day of sunshine, little wind and a very crowded market of people and pets looking for innovative and creative wares,  plants and edibles, clothing and delicious foods. Being at the market was a last minute opportunity for WBCRT to showcase a stunning array of new merchandise to help raise its profile.

The new merchandise includes something for children as well as adults.  Locally designed art depicts  a “cute as a button” pig and rabbit on mugs, water bottles and tote-bags along with adult T-Shirts, tote-bags, and  designer water bottles.

The annual Button Run and Pink Walk 2018

This year we were fortunate to have Red Events coordinate the Button Run & Pink Walk to take it to the next level for participants to enjoy. Electronic timing, and a stunning start and finish gantry and several food vendors were all on site to provide a variety of tasty food for hungry participants.


Adding to the celebration and entertainment were Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Waikato Rugby Union players who walked and ran with participants and happily autographed specially designed cards for runners and walkers. The players  joined in the warm up with Jolanta Pacholek singing great songs for everyone to exercise to. Children were treated to beautiful face painting which adding to the charm and  festivity.


Special thanks and appreciation goes to our major sponsor (since 2011) Braemar Hospital and to Errol Newlands from Red Events for the event coordination. A huge thank you to SBI Productions for the amazing sound and live streaming. We gratefully appreciated the many other businesses and individuals who donated wonderful spot prizes. This year donations included; a major spot prize of $500 from  Midas Jewellers, 47 participant spot prizes, plus ten special prizes for competition winners, along with gold, silver and bronze medals for the Button Run runners.


The Trust is very fortunate to have a team of willing volunteers who gave their time to put up promotional signage around Hamilton, manage entrant details, become marshals around the lake, cook sausages and generally help out with any task required. Without them, the event would not happen. 

Button Lunch 2018

The event was amazing and received wonderful reviews and feedback. Over 300 guests enjoyed an afternoon of entertainment, auctions, fashion, gorgeous food and music. Highlights of the day were Kylie Bax as MC, the Wintec Design Award, beautiful singing from Anna Saxon, and dance by Lana Smith. We were treated to the magnificent Raukawa waka taua which brought April & Stan Walker across stunning Lake Karapiro to the venue and a further highlight – Stan singing his song “Thank you”. A song he wrote in appreciation of his mother, which is a perfect fit with the Trust’s button logo coming from “Mothers are like buttons, they hold everything together.”

Special thanks goes to naming right sponsor Rave Build, the Gallagher Group (major sponsor) and the many generous businesses and individuals who donated auction items and made the day such a success!

Mega Mitre 10, Women’s DIY Evening

Several hundred women enjoyed an evening of DIY bliss, discounted home and garden wares and camaraderie at the Ruakura branch.  WBCRT was offered an opportunity to “shake the bucket” for donations and we were very generously supported by the patrons that night.

Our research nurses – Jenni and Heather

Jenni Scarlet and Heather Flay

When research nurses Jenni Scarlet and Heather Flay sit down with a woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, most often she has already talked with a breast cancer surgeon and an oncologist to  her results and treatment options. For some this news will be very positive, and the trials we offer are  based around de-escalating treatment or reducing side effects. For others, the prospect of a good long term outcome is not likely, and we are striving to find new options to improve this. Understanding breast cancer comes from research trials, projects, sharing of knowledge from other national and global research organisations, and from the woman herself.

When a research trial is offered to a breast cancer patient, Jenni and Heather, who are highly qualified research nurses, will ensure the patient’s diagnosis meets specific trial criteria. Some of these trials will be around surgical techniques, drug therapy, radiotherapy, reducing side effects, improving quality of life and communication.

Opting to be part of a research trial or project can be quite a daunting process, but for most women, the opportunity to improve their outcome, and those of other future women diagnosed, is the driving force behind the decision.

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