A trusted voice: the Helpline

BCNA’s Helpline has been responding to an increase in enquiries resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) and the risk for those with breast cancer.

We are the proud of the leadership role we played when coronavirus first started to impact the Australian community.

In mid-March you and your families started reaching out to BCNA because the government helplines and the hospital administration lines simply could not cope. We took the decision to bolster our Helpline team and move to 7 days a week. A commitment we will continue, until we are no longer needed.

The rapidly changing advice has concerned our members who have called our cancer nurses seeking reassurance, clarification and guidance.

For those in current treatment, the most common question has been around potential delays in treatment and medical appointments. Their concern is that hospitals might need to prioritise and focus on patients with coronavirus. Others are seeking information as to whether it is advisable to go to a hospital with a fever related to chemotherapy and what are the best procedures to follow.

Our team has spent considerable time explaining what medications, treatments and surgical procedures affect the immune system. One member wanted to know if an axillary clearance where a number of lymph nodes had been removed might place her at a higher risk. She was relieved to be told that it wouldn’t.

Many contacting the Helpline haven’t been in active treatment for some time but the current pandemic has renewed concern about their health being compromised. Their questions are largely centered on the long term impact of medications and whether they should reduce their external activities. In the initial phase of social distancing, people were unsure whether they were safe to go to places of worship and wanted advice on whether to go to work or stay home.

As enforced community restrictions have intensified, so too has people’s level of anxiety. Callers to the Helpline are experiencing job losses and are seeking emotional and practical assistance on ways to best navigate the health system and maintain physical and mental wellbeing in this difficult time.

During these times of uncertainty the BCNA Helpline is a trusted and empathic voice. We are extremely proud and grateful for the expertise and empathy of our cancer nurses who are literally answering the call of our members.

Issue 86
Autumn 2020