My role at Cancer Council Victoria is extremely rewarding. I am fortunate to lead a team of passionate and talented oncology nurses, educators, researchers, health promotion co-ordinators and social workers who design and deliver more than 25 supportive care programs to people affected by cancer.
The programs aim to reduce the burden of cancer on all Victorians – including carers and friends. To be able to see a difference in people’s lives by delivering the very best cancer information and support is what drives the work we do.
A Stitch In Time is such an important project because it helps people see a way through what can be a completely overwhelming and confusing time.
“My mother had breast cancer and I think I might be at risk, can I get tested?”
“I’ve got the BRCA1 gene but I don’t know if I should have surgery or not.”
These are the typical questions our qualified cancer nurses are asked from women worried about having a positive BRCA 1 or 2 gene, or who are unsure about what to do when they discover they have it.
Since actress Angelina Jolie came out publicly about having a positive BRCA 1 gene, and her decision to have prophylactic surgery, we have seen an increase in the number of women contacting us for information and support on genetic risk factors for both breast and ovarian cancers.
We know that the risk of getting breast cancer increases with age. One in eleven women will get breast cancer at some time during their lives. Most women who get breast cancer are over the age of 50. A family history of breast or ovarian cancer is also an important risk factor.
At Cancer Council Victoria we are here to provide compassionate support and credible information to those affected by cancer, and their loved ones.
We encourage people wanting information on genetic risk factors to contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 to speak to an experienced cancer nurse or to visit our website www.cancervic.org.au.
The nurses act as listeners and navigators, providing important detail or context where there is confusion or gaps in information. The 13 11 20 cancer nurses can also refer people to other support services including our Gene Connect program or refer you to visit a Familial Cancer Centre to access counselling and information specific to your family history.
Gene Connect is available for people affected by an inherited gene that increases cancer risk. This free and confidential telephone peer support program links a person with an inherited risk to a trained peer who has the same genetic risk factor.
Peer support volunteers offer emotional and practical support and this has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and to increase confidence when talking to health professionals about treatment decisions.
Over the past seven years, the program has been supported by a small number of trained volunteers who are BRCA 1 or 2 positive and made the decision to have prophylactic surgery.
The majority of calls to those volunteers have been about decision making, types of surgery and reconstruction experiences.
We have since expanded the program for women who have had breast or ovarian cancer and have tested gene positive, women who have had extensive testing but with no gene identified and people who are gene positive for bowel cancers (FAP and Lynch Syndrome).
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To find out more about A Stitch In Time
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