BCNA to offer telephone counselling

Family and friends don’t know how to cope and avoid talking about my illness. I need access to more information and support about how to cope. I would have appreciated access to more counselling.

BCNA’s 2014 survey of women living with secondary breast cancer found that a significant number felt they needed greater emotional support.
To help meet these needs, BCNA is trialling a new telephone counselling service. The project will begin in late 2015 and has been designed by BCNA and Dr Carrie Lethborg, Clinical Leader, Cancer Social Work, Coordinator Psychosocial Cancer Care, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. You may know Carrie, who is a regular speaker at our information forums around the country. Carrie has more than 20 years’ experience in cancer social work and cancer research and is widely published in medical journals and text books.

We asked Carrie to describe the project:

“This service offers women living with secondary breast cancer a unique opportunity to access counselling from experienced clinicians regardless of where they live and how many resources they have. The service will also be available to family members (children, partners, parents, siblings) and friends who are living with a loved one with secondary breast cancer. We will offer a safe place to discuss your concerns, offer ways that you can manage them and make referrals to ongoing support where possible when required. Each person will be able to have up to five free counselling sessions. We will collect non-identifiable information from all callers so that we are able to report back to BCNA about how the service is used and how helpful callers have found it.”

The project has been developed based on results from our 2014 survey of 582 members living with secondary breast cancer. The results of the survey mirrored Australian and international research illustrating that women with secondary breast cancer consistently describe significant gaps in psychological and practical information needs.

In our survey, two of the highest unmet needs were: fear about the cancer spreading further and uncertainty about the future.

Twenty-nine per cent of survey participants said they were not receiving enough emotional support from their treating team. Participants also reported limited access to information and support programs directed at addressing unmet needs. This included minimal contact with supportive care health professionals who could advise on self-care strategies to maximise ability to live well.

We look forward to trialling the program and hearing back from our members as to whether it is a helpful service and whether we should continue to offer it beyond the pilot. To register for the program or find out more, email BCNA at or phone us on 1800 500 258.

Issue 72
Spring 2015