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Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, affecting both men and women. Fortunately though, the survival rate for breast cancer has greatly improved in the past few decades - from 76% in 1989, to 93% for women and 86% for men today.

With this increase in survivorship, comes an increased need for continued support for people who have finished their treatment and recovered from their cancer.

St John of God Subiaco Hospital Breast Care Nurse, Gay Refeld, says that she often sees patients struggle emotionally whilst coping with their diagnosis and treatment, and beyond.
“Once their active treatment is completed (surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy), there is a perception that life will return to normal,” says Gay.

“However, life after breast cancer is a ‘new’ normal.”

After finishing treatment, survivors can experience feelings of anxiety, worry about cancer returning, impacts on relationships, and fatigue. In addition, survivors may have ongoing financial stresses relating to loss of income due to inability to work during treatment, gap payments and ongoing medical costs such as medication and physiotherapy.

To help meet the needs of survivors, a new clinic has been established at St John of God Subiaco Hospital: The Wellness After Breast Cancer Clinic. The Clinic offers a holistic consult, where patients have an opportunity to discuss their physical and psychological symptoms with a dedicated Breast Care Nurse.

It also serves to normalise patients’ feelings, address ongoing issues, and to offer advice and referrals to relevant services. The consult is documented in an individualised Wellness Plan, and then provided to the patient and health professionals involved in their care.

From Gay’s perspective, the Clinic can be as rewarding for caregivers as it is for their patients.

“It’s a privilege having the opportunity to spend quality time with patients, to reflect on their breast cancer diagnosis and address all issues experienced following their treatment. To see the relief on their faces and to validate that what they are experiencing is normal is very gratifying,” says Gay.

“Knowing that the clinic is making a difference in the quality of their lives and assisting them to move forward is very rewarding. My only wish is that I had the opportunity to see more patients in this setting.”

We will continue to keep you updated on our work in support of breast cancer patients and their families. Please contact us on 1800 281 288 if you would like to support this vital area of care.

The Wellness After Breast Cancer Clinic was made possible thanks to support from our wonderful donor community – thank you so much.

The words of patients who have received care at the Wellness After Breast Cancer Clinic:
  • “I found this appointment to be vital to my moving on to a normal life. It was closure in a way. By summarising the events of the past year, the Breast Care Nurse enabled me to understand where I am and what I have to do to continue to move forward.”

  • “I felt like I could move on and open the door to the new normal with more enthusiasm and support!”

  • “This is an essential part of the after care service… it ties up loose ends or gives you time to address issues you didn’t feel were important at the time of treatment. Like with myself, the aftercare was required because it addressed a new set of health issues that I had left unattended, because I felt like I’d been through enough with my breast cancer treatment.”

Your gift can change a life.