Staying at home has become the new norm. Hand hygiene is critical. And our electronic devices have become vital links to the outside world.
But despite these changes, breast cancer is still common and people will continue to be diagnosed with breast cancer and need treatment and ongoing follow-up.
Here’s a few ways we are modifying strategies at CANCER SPECIALISTS in order to treat and monitor breast cancer in the safest possible way:
SCREENING – Breast Screen Victoria is temporarily closed to protect clients and staff and we would also recommend that routine screening be postponed.
SURVEILLANCE – Traditional follow-up consists of a mammogram yearly and a clinical check. In most women the chance of an abnormality on these mammograms is less than 0.5%. If you are over 70, or have significant medical problems, or are immune-compromised then you are probably self isolating at home. In this case it is probably more risky to go out and have a mammogram as you will increase your chance of getting Covid-19. The chance of recurrence (something turning up on the mammogram) is influenced by the nature of your original breast cancer – your surgeon will be able to advise if you are in a lower or higher risk category, and this will help determine if you can delay your mammogram.
SYMPTOMS Although we suggest that routine mammograms can be delayed, we suggest that you continue to be aware of your breasts (you’ll have plenty of time while you’re at home!) and if you find a lump, have nipple discharge, notice a change in your breast etc then you should get this checked out. Most breast surgeons are offering telehealth appointments and this could be arranged in order to determine the best imaging to perform. You may still need a face-to-face consult, and this can be done safely now that most other consults are happening via telehealth.
At CANCER SPECIALISTS, we are averaging about 5 face to face consults per day, across 2 locations, so we can ensure that you are alone in the (regularly cleaned!) waiting room.
DCIS – Ductal Carcinoma In Situ is also known as pre-cancer and often the surgery for this is classified as Category 2. Currently we are still dong some category 2 surgeries however this is likely to change in the next few months. But we know that we can wait a few months before operating on DCIS, and we can use some tablets (endocrine therapy) in order to make sure it doesn’t change while we wait. There are some types of DCIS that require more urgent surgery, this is called High Grade and occurs more in younger women. In this case, it would be category 1, and we would proceed with surgery.
CANCER – Breast cancer is common but there are many types and treatment strategies can vary depending on the type of cancer and the patients. Surgery for breast cancer is Category 1 and this is still being performed in both public and private hospitals. Where possible we will be trying to do the smallest, safest procedure and often this can be done as day case surgery. However it may be better to treat the cancer with tablets first (endocrine therapy), or chemotherapy – in selected instances only.
At CANCER SPECIALISTS we are all about providing the best care, and in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, that means providing the best care to each and every patient based on individual patient circumstances.