A Wollongong-based specialist nurse says although the COVID-19 pandemic creates additional challenges for breast cancer patients, now is not the time to stay away from your health professional if you have concerns.
Earlier this year, Lisa Cook was appointed as the second McGrath Breast Care Nurse at the Illawarra Cancer Care Centre, located at Wollongong Hospital.
Research from Cancer Australia is showing that imaging procedures for the detection of breast cancers fell by 37 per cent between March and April due to COVID-19, and breast biopsies fell by a quarter nationally over the same period.
"It's difficult for patients because obviously a cancer diagnosis is a traumatic time already, and you add that extra level of anxiety associated with COVID on top of that and it makes it quite difficult for patients," Ms Cook said.
"Because of social isolating we're only allowed to have the patient with one visitor attend consultation appointments here at the Cancer Care Centre.
"So a person's normal support network may not be available to come in with them to that appointment."
Breast Cancer Awareness Month takes place during October.
Ms Cook said while cancer patients faced these additional challenges during the pandemic, the Awareness Month was the ideal time to commit to thinking about your health regularly, including how to do a breast check, what to look out for and what to do if you discover something unusual.
"We can be encouraging people to be doing breast self-checks, (as) particularly with COVID and the restrictions in place people aren't seeing their GP as regularly as normal," she said.
"We need women to be fully aware of their own breasts and their breast health, be able to pick up any abnormalities and know the changes within their breasts when they arise, and go about investigating them and getting someone to review them.
"It's an opportunity for us to use this month to promote breast health and awareness, (especially) with people who may have fallen off the radar a little with the COVID pandemic taking precedence for everyone at the moment."
McGrath Breast Care Nurses are available without a referral, and at no cost to patients.
There has been a McGrath Breast Care Nurse at Wollongong Hospital since 2014.
During the past six years, more than 1400 families across the Illawarra have been supported by this service.
People with breast cancer can contact Ms Cook at email@example.com or by phoning 0455 081 654.
McGrath Foundation CEO Holly Masters said McGrath Breast Care Nurses are specialists that are a critical part of the medical team managing the care of people with breast cancer and their families.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.