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Thriving after breast cancer in MidCentral

Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ) and Midcentral DHB are partnering to offer Thriving, a new support service that’s an alternative to outpatient clinic follow-up for low-risk early breast cancer patients who’ve completed surgery and radiation therapy.

The service has just launched, with the first 10 patients expected to enrol during October.

The chief executive of BCFNZ, Evangelia Henderson, says the new service turns the traditional follow-up model on its head. “Instead of focussing on disease, the service will have a wellness focus, promoting healthy lifestyles to prevent recurrence, and advising and supporting patients to access counselling and physical rehab - including lymphoedema support - and other services,” she says.

The new Thriving service, available to selected early breast cancer patients and those with DCIS, will be managed by BCFNZ nurse Melissa Warren. “This new approach takes into account patients’ emotional and psychological as well as physical wellbeing, and it involves whānau, too,” she says. “The traditional model of follow-up was disease-focussed and not helpful for people in moving forward. This will put them more in control.”

Melissa will call and email patients at regular intervals for five years after their primary breast cancer treatment. If they need to, patients can also contact Melissa between scheduled contact to discuss any concerns.

Patients enrolled in the Thriving service will remain under the clinical responsibility of their specialist at Palmerston North Hospital, but won’t need to routinely attend outpatient follow-up clinics. “This will have real benefits, especially for those with mobility issues,” says Melissa.

Melissa will ensure patients have annual mammograms, and will arrange rapid access to MDHB specialist care/clinics for patients if new symptoms occur.

Mrs Henderson says the aim is for patients to attain an excellent quality of life after breast cancer treatment.

“We hope the Thriving service will meet patients’ support needs, while freeing up MDHB outpatient clinic resources to deliver best care to new or high-risk breast cancer patients,” she says. “It’s a really exciting innovation.”

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