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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Helping Australians access the best breast cancer care

During October BCNA will shine a light on optimal breast cancer care.

As someone diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia, you deserve to receive the best care, irrespective of who you are, where you live, or your stage of diagnosis.

You should have access to a healthcare system that works well for you and your treating team. Your care should be patient centered, integrated, timely and multidisciplinary. It should include both specialist and supportive care before, during, and after treatment, and you should be informed of any suitable clinical trials.

This is what we call optimal care.

Wendy surrounded by her loved ones

We know that everyone has different needs and personal circumstances, so what is determined to be the best care for you, might be completely different for someone else.

We also recognise there have been many challenges over the past few years with delivering and receiving care, however, understanding your care, including your options, will help you work together with your treating team to ensure you are accessing the best care available to you right now.

What are the Optimal Care Pathways?

The Optimal Care Pathways (OCPs) exist to put your needs first, along with the best of technical care. They set the national standard for high quality care that should be available to all cancer patients treated in Australia.

Over the next month we will highlight five key areas of the Optimal care pathway for people with breast cancer to further explore what optimal care means to you and your health care team and how you can make sure you are receiving:

  • multidisciplinary care
  • informed financial consent
  • supportive care
  • access to clinical trials
  • optimal timeframes for delivering evidence-based care.

What does best care look like for you?

Multidisciplinary care: An integrated team approach where medical and allied health professionals consider all relevant treatment options and collaboratively develop an individual treatment plan for each patient.

The management and treatment of your breast cancer is complex and should involve several specialists in a multidisciplinary team. This is particularly important if you are living with metastatic breast cancer given it can affect the whole body, treatment is life-long, and there are many treatment pathways. You should be offered all relevant treatment options with an individual treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Multidisciplinary care creates opportunities for open, honest and regular communication and is the foundation of good treatment and care.

Informed financial consent: Informed financial consent means you should be aware of the total estimated costs for your care and treatment up front.

We know the financial costs associated with breast cancer treatment can be substantial. Your treatment can be delivered across both public and private sectors, creating fragmentation in the continuity of care. This can lead to confusion about who pays for which service, resulting in unexpected out-of-pocket costs. You have the right to receive the information you need to make informed decisions on where to be referred for treatment, and what type of treatment you wish to have, and other health professionals who may be involved in your care and available lower cost options that deliver the same or similar benefit.

Supportive Care: Care that deals with issues that emerge for patients, families and carers from the effects of the cancer diagnosis and its treatment.

Supportive care is a vital part of cancer care. You, and your carers, should be formally supported and have access to understandable, relevant information about the medical, practical and emotional aspects of your cancer and its treatment. Your wishes and needs, as well as those of your family and carers, should determine the level of support provided to you. Supportive care should begin from the time of your diagnosis and continue throughout your cancer treatment pathway and once after active treatment has ceased. 

Clinical Trials: Clinical trials are research investigations where people can volunteer to test new treatments, interventions, or tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage various diseases or medical conditions. 

Clinical trials are the foundation for improved cancer outcomes. They allow new treatments to be tested and can offer you access to potentially more effective therapies that would otherwise be unavailable to you. Treating specialists and multidisciplinary teams should be aware of, or search for clinical trials that may be suitable for you. 

Optimal timeframes for delivering evidence-based care: Designed to help patients understand the timeframes in which they can expect to be assessed and treated.

Everyone should have access to timely treatment for breast cancer. We know that shorter timeframes for consultations and treatment often promote a better experience for patients. Evidence-based guidelines, where they exist, should inform the timeframes that tests, or procedures are completed.


Download the Guide to best breast cancer care

  • This will help you understand the optimal cancer care that should be provided at each step of your cancer care.
  • It also provides information to help you and your carers communicate with health professionals.

Download the Optimal care pathway for people with breast cancer

  • This is designed to assist health professionals to provide optimal care and support to you, your family and carers.
  • You can also use this to guide discussions with your healthcare team and to help you make informed decisions about what’s right for you.

Download the Managing the financial impacts of breast cancer factsheet

  • This factsheet is intended to provide general information and advice about financial and practical assistance that may be available to reduce your out-of-pocket costs or help you pay for them. 

Read stories from our network here.

BCNA advocates for equal access to the best breast cancer care for everyone diagnosed in Australia. We have information and support to make sure you, and your family, are informed and empowered to ask the right questions to ensure you are receiving the best care for you.

If you would like more information about optimal care, or have any questions about your care, you can call BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258.

This page is also available in Plain English.