Retired nurse Cynthia Calton, 70, from Portscatho, is one of the thousands of people in the South West who took up the opportunity to take part in clinical research. She has shared her research story as part of the I Am Research campaign, developed by the National Institute for Health Research, which gives patients, the public and health and social care research professionals a chance to shout about how fantastic research is. The campaign, which launched this month, aims to raise awareness of the benefits of research and the positive impact it has on people’s lives.
“I suppose I have always been ‘pro-research’ throughout my nursing career but it wasn’t until I had to have a mastectomy in 2007 as a result of breast cancer that I got involved as a patient,” she said.
“I was sitting in the waiting room and saw a poster looking for volunteers for a research programme which was looking at diet and lifestyle in relation to breast cancer so I decided to take a tab and contact the research nurse for more information. It was quite a simple project from my point of view which required regular interviews with the research nurse that tied in with my appointments, and annual blood samples being taken. We received regular newsletters with the progress of the findings which I found very interesting and after five years it was completed.”
Cynthia has taken part in another study at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust.
“In 2008, when I was being treated post-mastectomy, I got involved in another study which was comparing the side effects of two already approved drugs after chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” she said. “That study ran for three years.
“Since then I have had a second mastectomy, four years ago, after the cancer returned – albeit a different type of cancer. Before I had the surgery I was asked if I would take part in another trial – of course, I said yes. It involved having a fine tube inserted near to the mastectomy wound during surgery to give a local anaesthetic over a period of 24 hours, after which it was removed. The study was looking to improve pain relief and arm movement following a mastectomy. It was a blind trial so I’ve no idea if I had the real thing or a placebo but the movement was much easier and the pain relief good.
“I’m a bit of a research enthusiast really. I know how important it is as I know that for some people taking part in a clinical trial can be the only option they have.
“Taking part in research is the only way we are going to progress medicine. I think research also offers hope to those who sometimes don’t feel like they have much – it can add a whole new outlook to your future ensuring you still feel useful and that you can do something to help. I think that sums it up quite well.
“I would encourage everyone to ask about what research opportunities they have available to them as you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Every year, more than half a million people help the NHS to improve healthcare and develop life-saving treatments by taking part in health research.
For 2018, the I Am Research campaign celebrates the NHS’s 70th birthday (NHS70). The national NHS70 campaign, led by NHS England, is focusing on how the public can ‘give a present’ for the NHS’s birthday on 5 July and leave a legacy after the celebrations are over. The NIHR is leading on one of NHS70’s seven themes: asking the public to take part in health research.
Helen Quinn, Chief Operating Officer and Lead for Nursing, NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula, said:
“It is thanks to patients like Cynthia that we are able to progress medicines and treatments for everyone. The increase in research participants and clinical trials in the South West every year really is a great achievement, not only for our regional research teams, but for researchers across the globe, and especially for our patients.
“It is our aim to be able to offer every patient who enters a hospital, GP practice, dental practice or other health and social care setting, the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial.
“We are continually working hard to increase our research activity in the South West because we know that patients cared for in a research-active environment have better outcomes.”
To find out what research studies are taking place near you, visit the UK Clinical Trials Gateway https://www.ukctg.nihr.ac.uk