West Moreton Health's McGrath Breast Care Nurse Karen Miles.
West Moreton Health's McGrath Breast Care Nurse Karen Miles.

Nurses’ quest to revolutionise breast cancer after-care

BY the time a patient has come out the other side of surgery, the battle has only been half-won.

Follow-up care continues to ensure the patient is physically recovering and to monitor and manage symptoms.

But two Ipswich nurses say the current model of after-care for breast cancer patients is lacking and misses a vital component.

“Having breast cancer is a devastating, life changing event and the repercussions go on beyond diagnosis and during treatment but afterwards as well,” West Moreton Health’s McGrath Breast Care Nurse Karen Miles said.

“We know women and men can become quite depressed and low.”

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Ms Miles and her colleague, fellow Breast Care Nurse Tamara Tomasev, are eager to shake up the way follow-up care is carried out to prioritise not just physical health but psychosocial health and quality of life.

“We want make sure they’re supported, make sure they’re mentally healthy, make sure they’re happy with checking their own breasts and comfortable,” Ms Miles said.

“And it’s even just to check in and be able to say how they’re feeling is normal or to help refer them to a psychologist.”

The pair have teamed up with a researcher to conduct a study involving about 35 participants to highlight the importance of a more thorough after-care process.

“At six months, we’ll compare our patients’ outcomes to patients who (had traditional follow-up care) and then (once we prove it works), we can implement the idea,” Ms Miles said.

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She said the process may have traditionally lacked the needed thoroughness because the first goal for health professionals was to save the patient’s life.

“What happens at the moment is that we make sure patients get the best care physically, including chemotherapy or any other drugs they might need,” Ms Miles said.

“But, once that stops, there tends to be a gap of three to six months until they next come back.”

She said care following a diagnosis was ongoing and thorough but stopped following surgery.

“There’s suddenly nothing … People want to get back to normal but can’t because it feels like a new normal with breast cancer in their life,” she said.

“We want to make sure they’re coping out there – we want them to thrive, not just survive.”

Read more news by Ebony Graveur.