The Thriving service, which is in partnership with Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, is an alternative to outpatient clinic follow-up and is available to selected early-stage breast cancer patients and those with non-invasive breast cancer, or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
The nurse leading the service will use telephone and digital platforms to contact patients at regular intervals for five years after their primary breast cancer treatment. If they need to, patients can also contact the nurse between scheduled contact to discuss any concerns.
Patients enrolled in the Thriving service will remain under the clinical responsibility of their specialist at Palmerston North Hospital, and will still have rapid access to specialist medical care or clinics if needed, but won’t need to routinely attend outpatient follow-up clinics.
MidCentral DHB Cancer Screening, Treatment and Support Clinical Executive Dr Claire Hardie said the pilot programme offered a proactive, holistic, nurse-led follow-up for low risk patients and enabled supported self-management.
“MidCentral DHB wants patients in our community to live well after a cancer diagnosis and be empowered to manage side effects and changes in their body or wellbeing that can occur after treatment,” Dr Hardie said.
“Traditional medical models of follow-up in outpatient clinics, that are often brief appointments, may not meet the supportive care needs of a patient after their breast cancer diagnosis, nor increase their ability to self-manage when transitioning from treatment for breast cancer to survivorship.”
The programme gives each patient as much input as they need while freeing up clinic resources to deliver best care to new breast cancer patients or high-risk breast cancer patients during their follow-up, she said.
Breast Cancer Foundation Chief Executive Evangelia Henderson said the new service turned the traditional follow-up model on its head.
“Instead of focusing on disease, the service will have a wellness focus, promoting healthy lifestyles to prevent recurrence, and advising and supporting patients to access counselling and physical rehab - including lymphoedema support - and other services,” she said.
Henderson said the new approach took into account whānau as well as the patients’ emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing.
Dr Hardie said an evaluation of the pilot programme after 12 months would provide insight into the potential for using this model of care for other cancer patients.