A Wetherby mum is backing a new Cancer Research UK awareness campaign which highlights the power of cancer clinical trials in helping to save lives.
Rachel Ranby took part in a trial after being diagnosed with skin cancer when a mole on the back of her right leg was found to be a malignant melanoma.
The 44-year-old teaching assistant said: “I know from personal experience that clinical trials are vital, both to people like me who have received treatment and to future generations.
“Today, more and more people are surviving thanks to research, and cancer trials are crucial in helping to develop better and kinder treatments.”
Cancer clinical trials show whether new tests and treatments are safe, what their side effects are and whether they are better than what is currently used.
Huge posters supporting the campaign, which runs throughout February, are being displayed at bus shelters and outside shopping centres in the Leeds area.
They will also be used in hospitals including Leeds General Infirmary, St James’s University Hospital, and Wharfedale Hospital in Otley.
The advert highlights the fact that ‘Every year thousands of patients join our clinical trials to help beat cancer sooner.’
Rachel was diagnosed in the summer of 2007 after noticing an enlarged mole on the back of her right leg had grown.
“There was a small flat mole there originally, but it wasn’t until it was rubbing on the back of my jeans that I noticed it had become bigger,” she added.
Tests at Harrogate District Hospital revealed that she had a malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
She added: “I felt completely well and wasn’t ill in the slightest, so I wasn’t expecting it to be cancer even though it was in the back of my mind. It sort of hit me afterwards.”
Rachel was referred to St James’ Hospital in Leeds where further tests showed the cancer had spread to her groin, leading to further surgery in November 2007.
“That was quite a big operation but no further cancer was found in the remaining lymph nodes, which was brilliant.”
After that operation, Rachel agreed to take part in the AVAST-M trial which looked at whether the drug bevacizumab (Avastin) helps reduce the risk of melanoma returning after surgery.
Rachel, who has a 10-year-old daughter Verity with her IT consultant husband David, took the drug intravenously every three weeks for a year throughout the whole of 2008.
She said: “I was only 37 and had a young daughter, so I thought I will throw anything at this to make sure I survive.
“When you have a three-year-old, as Verity was at the time, you want to do everything you can to make sure that you are always around for them.
“When I weighed up the odds, if it was going to be something extra that might prevent my cancer coming back, then I was prepared to do it.
“I didn’t want to turn anything down that could have helped me.”
Rachel, who works at a school in Tadcaster, added: “I had been concerned about possible side-effects, but I was actually ok.
“I was very tired but that could have been due in part to the two major operations I’d had in quick succession. As the year progressed and I was feeling better with no cancer recurrence, I felt that the trial was doing its job.
“I was followed up regularly for the next five years to the point where now, seven years on, I am clear. I am definitely glad that I took part in the trial.”
Rachel said she had been left with lymphoedema, or long-term chronic swelling in her leg following the surgery on her groin. But she insists: “This is manageable, and is a small price to pay for still being here.”
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesman for Yorkshire, said: “We hope that Rachel’s experience will help local people understand the benefits that cancer trials can bring to patients.
“One-in-two of us will get cancer at some point in our lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease than ever before.
“Survival rates have doubled since the early 1970s and cancer trials have played a major role in that success.”
Cancer Research supports cancer trials in major hospitals in the Leeds area and more than 250 cancer trials across the UK.
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