How The Royal Marsden helped with Aneta’s phobia of needles

Aneta was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2022 and hugely benefitted from a Mobile Image Intensifier, which was funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

Headshot of Aneta smiling, she has shoulder-length brown hair and is wearing a black spotty top. She's in front of a green bush

“Being diagnosed with cancer came completely out of the blue – it was a massive shock. I was putting my son to bed one night and it really was by accident that I found the lump in my breast through my pyjamas. I examined myself and then went to my GP to get it checked out. I was then referred to The Royal Marsden.”

“I had more tests at the Rapid Diagnostic Centre (RDAC) – a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy was all done during one appointment, and I got my official diagnosis a week later.”

Phobia of needles

“After my biopsy results came back, I was told my cancer was quite aggressive and I would need to have weekly chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatment.”

“Having chemotherapy was one of the things I really wanted to avoid. Not so much because of the side effects but mainly because I have a huge phobia of needles. I absolutely dread having just a simple blood test, let alone anything else."

All that was going through my head when I was told about my treatment plan was the worry about needles – I felt so anxious!

“At first, I tried having my weekly treatment through a cannula (which involves inserting a needle and plastic tube into a vein, either in the back of the hand or lower arm). I have really small veins and it was a struggle to get the cannula in, often taking a few attempts. I remember speaking to my oncologist and saying if I could only have the same treatment orally instead of through my veins, so I could avoid the weekly cannulas, I’d be a lot happier.”

Having a port fitted using a mobile image intensifier

Aneta was offered to have a port fitted to help with the weekly chemotherapy – this is a small appliance inserted under the skin to allow easy access to a vein, usually under the arm or chest. It’s used for longer-term delivery of IV medications, usually over months or often years.

“During my second week of treatment I asked one of the registrars if they could refer me to have the port procedure. I was really nervous, but at the same time I knew how much of a difference it would make to not be so anxious coming in for my weekly treatment and blood tests. I know that having intense chemotherapy can sometimes damage the veins too if you’re having needles and cannulas inserted on such a regular basis like I was.”

Aneta with a friend, wearing a chemotherapy cold cap with a port fitted on the righthand side of her chest
Aneta (on the right) with the port fitted on her chest

Aneta’s port was fitted using a mobile image intensifier, which is a piece of equipment funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. It’s used to capture moving X-ray images of the inside of the body in real time. As well as providing excellent image quality, this device can be used in theatres as well as radiology, to assist with surgical procedures – such as inserting patients’ ports accurately and comfortably.

I feel so grateful that the equipment which was used during the port fitting was funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. It has made a huge different to my quality of treatment and quality of life.

“The staff who took care of me while I had the port fitted – everyone in Day Surgery and the recovery unit – were absolutely brilliant. I had the most incredible anaesthetist – Dr John Schutzer-Weissmann, Consultant Anaesthetist and Pain Physician. He met me before the procedure and explained everything. I feel that he really deserves to be acknowledged as he was so wonderful. Not only for the amazing job he does (you can barely even see where he’s inserted the port), but also for reassuring anxious patients like me who are so scared of hospitals.”

Aneta receiving chemotherapy through her port at The Royal Marsden. She's wearing a hair wrap, knitted cardigan and face mask

“It was the best decision I made! After I had the port fitted, my treatment was far more pleasant, quicker and much more manageable. Not just for me as a patient but for the staff who are treating me and had to deal with my needle phobia and struggles with the cannula each week. I would highly recommend getting a port fitted to other patients who are able to – if they’re due to be having very intense and regular treatment like me, it makes a huge difference.”

How Aneta's doing now

“The good news is, I have responded well to treatment so far and recently underwent major surgery including a mastectomy and reconstruction. I am officially cancer free but will need further treatment going forward to prevent the cancer from coming back – I feel very lucky to be looked after by the most incredible team at The Royal Marsden.”

“I’m so grateful to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity for the support they give the hospital, it’s so appreciated and really makes a difference to our lives as patients.”

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