A diagnosis of breast cancer can be very frightening and many will have concerns about body image, self-esteem, sexuality and the impact on relationships. There can be significant financial impacts on the woman and her family and uncertainty over the future. Many women who have breast cancer, feel helpless and powerless.
The psychological impact of breast cancer may last long after the diagnosis is made.
Women in particular are more vulnerable to adverse outcomes, including anxiety and depression, being economically disadvantaged or have poor social support.
While some patients receive all of the support that they require from family and friends, others greatly benefit from the support that breast care nurses provide.
Timely access to a breast care nurse (BCN) can greatly assist women going through treatment for breast cancer. Breast care nurses improve the continuity of care for women, collaborating with the treatment team acting as the woman’s advocate providing important information, emotional support and referral to other services for a wide range of needs experienced by women.
As the Breast Care Nurse at Murdoch I will have been notified of a woman/man who is to come into hospital for her breast cancer surgery by the surgeon’s practise manager and will have been given a background on her type of cancer, and if necessary her social circumstances. I will then contact her over the phone to establish a repour and hopefully friendship so that she feels she can confide in me and share her feelings and worries.
There are many resources and services available to the woman and one of my roles is to ensure she has access to them.
Breast Cancer Network Australia provides an invaluable resource titled The Guide to Early Breast Cancer which is particularly useful if someone is needing immediate information. I can assist the woman to get access to this online and order a hard copy if needed.
Every lady who has surgery for breast cancer is entitled to a free postoperative bra which I arrange.
At St John of God Murdoch Hospital are supported by some wonderful craft groups who make special cushions to provide comfort for those ladies who have auxiliary surgery and or a mastectomy. Some groups also make bags to ensure carrying any drains around is much easier.
Breast Cancer Care WA is an organisation based in Cottesloe that has Breast Care Nurses, counsellors, support groups, pamper days and can also provide assistance with cleaning and financial concerns.
Other services that I can refer people to include a wig library, counselling, legal aid, social programs, prosthesis providers, regional services and allied health professionals.
These services assist in meeting the woman’s psychological, social, physical and spiritual needs.
I will meet the woman face-to-face either on the day of surgery or the morning after. Here I can provide her with extra written resources, discuss specific post-operative care and continue to grow our friendship and therefore support.
The woman will receive her pathology results within 7-10 days which dictates what other treatment may be required to prevent her cancer coming back. This could be a mix of hormone treatment, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or all three.
I will phone again following these results to check that she has understood what she has been told to discuss and address any concerns she may have.
I will stay in touch as long as my service is required, with some women needing ongoing support for longer than others.
Breast Care Nurse
St John of God Murdoch Hospital