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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 20 October 2010) . . Page.. 4767 ..

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“(5A) that the ACT Government has continued to fail in meeting its target for breast screen participation for women aged 50-69 years;

(5B) that the ACT Government has failed to meet its target in providing women with a breast screen within 28 days of making an appointment;”.

MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (4.43): I will speak to the motion and the amendment. I thank Ms Porter for bringing on this motion today. The Greens will support the motion. The Greens recognise the distressing impact breast cancer can have on both women and men, their families and their community. The Greens agree that the government has been providing quality treatment and services to people experiencing breast cancer and we note the results of the 10-year quality assurance project that was recently made public.

We do have a high rate of diagnosis in the ACT. Perhaps because of the successful diagnostic services provided, detected malignancies are becoming smaller, with fewer lymph nodes involved. It is hard to know from which angle to approach the subject of breast cancer because while there has been great success in improving treatment, there remain a number of people who still lose their lives to the disease.

Over the 10 years that the recent study was conducted, 176 out of 2,829 patients that were being followed lost their lives to breast cancer. Behind every woman or sometimes man that is lost, there is a family and community that is left to cope. As Ms Porter said, there will be few people who do not know someone who has had breast cancer or lost their life to breast cancer. My auntie actually lost her life to breast cancer; so I have seen the impact it has on family and friends.

This can be especially devastating where a woman did not have the chance to live a full life and when the immediate family left behind have difficulty coping. While I acknowledge that the government is providing quality treatment, there are some areas of treatment that Bosom Buddies, a very important voluntary and peer support service, is concerned about.

For example, here in the ACT we have three breast cancer nurses employed by Calvary Health Care. One of these nurses is currently on extended leave and the remaining two must meet a high level of demand. When one of the two remaining nurses does go on holidays or takes leave, there is only one nurse left to carry the burden. The role these nurses find themselves in appears to be very stressful and there is concern about the sustainability of the workflow for the staff.

The lymphoedema clinic at Calvary hospital located with the physiotherapy department was established several years ago after advocacy by local groups including Bosom Buddies and local members of the Breast Cancer Network of Australia. Bosom Buddies volunteers were able to raise funds and donate a laser machine to the clinic. Today the clinic serves about 25 new referrals every month. Once a woman experiences lymphoedema she will most likely need ongoing support and treatment by the clinic.

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