Pilot Program Improves Support for Breast Cancer Patients

GOVTHealthLine 811, in partnership with Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, has launched a new initiative for breast cancer patients in Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region.

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 of this pilot is to increase patients’ awareness of lymphedema and help prevent or minimize the complications associated with the condition.

“Lymphedema can have a devastating, lifelong impact if it’s not detected and treated early,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan said.  “The Breast Cancer Lymphedema Pilot Program is a valuable resource that helps educate patients about the condition and improves access to services.”

The innovative program offers assessment, education and information about available services for patients in the community through telephone outreach.  If there are early signs of lymphedema, patients are referred for treatment to ensure the condition 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 creation of the program.

“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 the program is useful and meets their expectations.”

“This pilot program is a shining example of what good can happen when the many 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 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.

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