QLD_GCB_NEWS_BREASTS_16APR20_PAYNE
QLD_GCB_NEWS_BREASTS_16APR20_PAYNE

Cancer sufferers told ‘you can only have one breast removed’

SHATTERED Gold Coast women booked for double mastectomies have been told they will only have one breast removed at a time under the new coronavirus elective surgery rules.

In a blow to women suffering from breast cancer, doctors are now only allowed to remove the cancerous breast, while the removal of a second deemed by the women to be a preventive measure is considered an elective surgery.

Under a decision made by the National Cabinet in March, all elective surgery was halted to free up capacity for hospitals during the pandemic.

Women awaiting the procedure claim they will now be left 'lopsided' against their will and face long waiting lists for a second surgery later - costing more time off work to recover.

It is a major concern for Breast & ALL Women's Cancer Care Team Gold Coast which has written to the Health Minister Steven Miles, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and the Federal Health Department.

This issue has been raised with the state government by the local support group who say the decision means women will be walking around with a single breast against their will. Heather Smith and Support group spokeswoman Sandra Johnston. Picture: Jerad Williams
This issue has been raised with the state government by the local support group who say the decision means women will be walking around with a single breast against their will. Heather Smith and Support group spokeswoman Sandra Johnston. Picture: Jerad Williams

One local woman who had her double mastectomy surgery cancelled this month described the process as extremely disappointing: "While I completely understand the situation, I can't help but feel very disappointed," she said.

"I'm grateful my surgery is going ahead to have the cancer removed but I had decided on double mastectomy because I absolutely didn't want to be lopsided. I also didn't want to have to go back and do it all a second time.

"Now I find myself in the position of having to do everything I didn't want to do. I just feel so deflated knowing it all has to be done a second time."

Another Gold Coast woman waiting 18 months for her reconstruction surgery - which has also been cancelled said she feels "in limbo".

"Now the wait is indefinite, it feels worse than when I was diagnosed with cancer because you prepare yourself mentally for so long.

"I didn't ask to get cancer, and I understand why this is happening but I feel like I am being punished for something out of my control."

Support Group spokeswoman Sandra Johnston said for many women, being left with a single breast is a major point of anxiety.

"It feels like a ticking time bomb, it may not be considered cancerous at the time but it is about risk reduction," Ms Johnston said.

"Other women in our group have had cancer in the second breast undetected prior to surgery, so it is a real concern."

Gold Coast women booked in for a double mastectomies are being told they will only have a single breast removed under the COVID elective surgery guidelines and support group spokeswoman Sandra Johnston is concerned. Picture: Jerad Williams
Gold Coast women booked in for a double mastectomies are being told they will only have a single breast removed under the COVID elective surgery guidelines and support group spokeswoman Sandra Johnston is concerned. Picture: Jerad Williams

"In the last three weeks we have already seen eight women on the Coast given a single mastectomy when they wanted a double - it is heartbreaking and horrendous.

"For these women it means a second surgery at an unknown point down the track, it means more time off work, more time to recover.

"This also means more cost for the tax payer. I can't understand the logic.
"Women have been left lopsided, against their will which has a huge impact on their confidence and mental well being."

Mr Miles said some surgeries may soon be allowed to continue.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles speaks to media amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, April 9, 2020. Picture: Kevin Farmer
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles speaks to media amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, April 9, 2020. Picture: Kevin Farmer

"We're seeing low numbers of new cases of COVID-19 which means soon we will be able to resume some of the elective surgery," he said.

"National Cabinet is also considering what elective surgery can proceed and be prioritised."

These plans will be announced over the next couple of weeks.

Queensland Health said guidelines were provided by the BreastSurgANZ Society and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

Prophylactic mastectomies (preventive) and reconstructions were considered category 3 procedures (non-urgent).

Originally published as Women told 'you can only have one breast removed'


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