New breast care nurse in the region

Leah Savage has been appointed a McGrath Breast Care Nurse, and will work closely with other registered breast care nurses in the region. Photo: Contributed

Stefan Bradley

THE McGrath Foundation has appointed Leah Savage as a new McGrath Breast Care Nurse at Latrobe Regional Health (LRH), to provide increased support to people and their families experiencing breast cancer in Gippsland.

She joins six other McGrath Breast Care Nurses from the Bass Coast to Bairnsdale, including Central Gippsland Health’s Janine Craft from Sale, who supports patients and their families in the Wellington Shire, Central Gippsland and surrounding districts.

As written on the McGrath Foundation website, Ms Craft says: “The most important thing I do for my patients is to offer individual support, guidance and encouragement for patients and their families experiencing breast cancer”.

There are currently 47 McGrath Breast Care Nurses throughout Victoria, in regional, rural, and metropolitan areas.

The support of a McGrath Breast Care Nurse is a free service, and is available without a referral.

There are 223 McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities across Australia who have supported more than 137,000 families since 2005.

Every year, more than 4700 people in Victoria are diagnosed with breast cancer, and one in seven women in Australia will be diagnosed in their lifetime, meaning there is an increasing need for specialist McGrath Breast Care Nurses to support people impacted by the disease.

Research by the McGrath Foundation shows that early access to a McGrath Breast Care Nurse improves both the outcomes and experience of a person with breast cancer.

“For women and men diagnosed with breast cancer in regional and rural areas there are challenges, because we rely on the community resources rather than being able to treat everything within the same hospital or healthcare facility like you might in a metropolitan area,” Ms Savage said.

“That’s why my role as a McGrath Breast Care Nurse is so important, I can be a central point of contact and help patients navigate where to next in their treatment, referrals needed and ensure they are well supported from diagnosis right throughout treatment and beyond.

“GPs play a major role in supporting regional and rural patients. Mental health is a common issue with patients experiencing breast cancer as there are fewer resources available in regional and rural areas. This is referred to community-based healthcare providers.”

Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer for women in Australia, and more than 20,000 people are diagnosed each year, with the rate of diagnosis rising.

“There are a number of reasons breast cancer diagnoses are rising. Improved awareness and screening have contributed to a rising rate of diagnosis nationally,” Ms Savage said.

But Ms Savage pointed out that treatment has advanced for the better over the years.

“Breast cancer treatment has improved massively with immunotherapy and the variety of treatment options available to patients now that we didn’t have in the past making a huge difference,” she said.

“Clinical trials, pathology, (and) increased genetic testing have all also helped improve patient outcomes.”

To get in touch with your nearest McGrath Breast Care Nurse, visit mcgrathfoundation.com.au/get-support/find-a-nurse