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Pilot improves breast cancer patient support


HealthLine 811, along with RQHR and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, has launched a new initiative for breast cancer patients in the Region.

Glenda Cook, a breast cancer survivor.
Glenda Cook, a breast cancer survivor, developed lymphedema post operatively and is now a patient advisor on the pilot. On May 26, she was at a media event to announce the pilot project.

The Breast Cancer Lymphedema Pilot Program is now available to women and men who have undergone surgery or treatment as a result of breast cancer. The goal is to increase patients’ awareness of lymphedema and help prevent or minimize the complications associated with the condition.

The innovative program offers assessment, education and information on services available to patients via telephone outreach. Patients are referred for treatment if there are early signs of lymphedema to ensure it is detected and managed early. The program is provided by phone, in a timely and convenient manner for patients. Breast cancer patients can self refer, be referred to the program following surgery or while receiving breast cancer treatment through the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.

To better meet the needs of patients, the initiative was designed with the help of patient advisors, who played an important role in creating the program.

Recognizing the lifelong risk lymphedema poses to breast cancer patients, and how it can adversely affect survivor’s quality of life, the program empowers HealthLine’s team to improve patient care outcomes.

“Introducing this outbound call program is part of HealthLine’s strategic direction to further expand services to better serve patients,” HealthLine Director Roberta Wiest said. “The Breast Cancer Lymphedema Pilot Program was developed in response to concerns identified by patients and in consultation with them to ensure it is useful and meets their expectations.”

“This pilot program is a shining example of what can happen when stakeholders in our health care system work co-operatively and collaboratively to solve a gap in patient service,” breast cancer survivor and Patient Advisor Glenda Cook said.

“This HealthLine initiative which provides information and access to services is extremely useful and helpful,” breast cancer survivor and Patient Advisor Nicole Pylatiuk said. “The program wasn’t available at the time I was dealing with lymphedema, and I am proud to have contributed toward better services for other patients.”

Lymphedema is a chronic condition caused by the accumulation of fluid and proteins between the body’s tissues that can be caused by an under-functioning lymphatic system. It can also develop when lymphatic vessels are damaged or removed as the result of injury, surgery or cancer treatment.
Without early diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management, lymphedema is a progressive and irreversible condition that can severely affect a person’s quality of life.