Breast Health Centre linking services, reaching patients
By Susan Dennehy
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Following a breast biopsy, Brandon's Michelle Fortin had a feeling she'd be diagnosed with breast cancer – she says she just kind of knew.
Nevertheless, the breast cancer survivor admits to being overwhelmed at the time of her diagnosis – a common reaction for many patients and their families.
After learning her diagnosis, Michelle reached out for as much assistance as she could, both close to home and in Winnipeg. Her surgeon answered all of her questions with kindness and compassion, and she was quickly connected with a social worker from Shared Health's Breast Health Centre.
Located at 400 Taché Avenue directly across the street from St. Boniface Hospital, the Breast Health Centre's multi-disciplinary team of experts specialize in breast health. Using a patient-focused approach that encompasses high-quality care and state-of-the-art equipment, our team aims to ensure the best possible experience for patients.
Specifically, we offer support to women and men who are 18 years of age or older who:
- Are experiencing breast problems
- Have signs and symptoms of breast cancer
- Have breast cancer and are experiencing complications, such as swelling of the arm (lymphedema)
- Need counselling related to coping with breast cancer and other life stressors
- Have nutritional concerns or questions about breast cancer risk and breast cancer survivorship
- Are concerned about their inherited risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer
Offering clinical assessments, diagnostic tests, treatment, education and support through our various specialized programs is not always easy, but we try to make an individual's journey less burdensome. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Breast Health Centre moved many of its classes and resources online, which helped us continue providing most of our services with minimal disruptions. It also allowed us to reach a wider audience.
Though the centre has fully reopened, we continue to offer our services online. Clients that attend in person appreciate that we are cleaning and sanitizing regularly. That's made everyone feel safer and provided patients with some options where they may feel uncomfortable with accessing services in-person.
Recognizing that about 20% of our patients come from rural Manitoba, we try, whenever possible, to coordinate services so the impact of travel is minimized. We support and work with the Prairie Mountain, Southern and Interlake-Eastern Health Regions to repatriate patients where possible. We also work closely with the Northern Health Region to coordinate timely care.
In Michelle's case, she chose to have her initial care in Winnipeg, as she had family support and friends in the city. After surgery, she needed treatment for lymphedema, which, while available in Brandon, she chose to access at the Breast Health Centre. The Centre was key to providing supports and linking her to resources that helped her prepare for her breast surgery as well as the care and recovery that followed. Those supports and services helped provide her with a sense of reassurance and a link to important information.
Between the care she's received from her physician, in hospital, from the Breast Health Centre and from her care team at CancerCare Brandon, she says she has felt well-supported throughout her treatment. She encourages individuals to ask questions, because as she experienced, there is always someone there to help. And, knowing that those recently diagnosed with breast cancer are often most afraid of the unknown, the tests, and the chemotherapy, she encourages people to access as many services as they can.
For those of us at the Breast Health Centre, it's comforting to know that we have been able to support Michelle throughout her diagnosis, surgery and treatment. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we encourage Manitobans to learn more about the many supports and resources we offer. Accessing these services early and often during your cancer journey helps ensures you can make better-informed decisions about your health.
For more information about the Breast Health Centre and our services, I encourage you to visit us online at sharedhealthmb.ca/bhc. Information on breast cancer screening can be found at www.cancercare.mb.ca/screening/breast.
Susan Dennehy is a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Breast Health Centre in Winnipeg.