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Caring for someone with early breast cancer

Many Australians diagnosed with breast cancer will have a partner, family member or friend who provides regular support, personal care or assistance to them, both during and after treatment.

There are almost 2.7 million carers in Australia, however many people who provide support to someone with breast cancer do not see themselves as a ‘carer’. If you know someone diagnosed with breast cancer, you may feel like you are just doing what is right by helping out. You may clean their house, cook meals or drive them to appointments – all tasks that carers do.

The role of the carer in the breast cancer experience is incredibly important. To go through any major life crisis without support is isolating and detrimental to the individual's health and wellbeing. The role of the carer becomes very important right from the start in offering support and hope.

- Jane Flectcher, Psycho Oncologist

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a carer, the support and care you provide is recognised and valued.

It is normal for many carers to experience a range of complex and difficult emotions along the cancer journey. It is important to know that you are not alone facing the challenges associated with being a carer. BCNA has compiled the below information and support for carers, including a video series and fact sheets to guide you in caring for someone with breast cancer.

Please take some time to look through the two videos below. Each video has an accompanying fact sheet that covers most of the topics mentioned in the videos. 

Caring for someone with early breast cancer - what to expect and how to help

In this video, Psycho Oncologist Jane Fletcher explains the range of emotions carers may be feeling following a family member or friend's breast cancer diagnosis. Carers of women with breast cancer also talk about the practical ways they have helped during their loved one's cancer journey. 

View a captioned version of Caring for someone with early breast cancer - what to expect and how to help.

You can also download a PDF of Caring for someone with early breast cancer: what to expect and how to help fact sheet on our Booklets and fact sheets page.   

You’re important too - looking after yourself as a carer

In this video, Psycho Oncologist Jane Fletcher and carers of women with breast cancer talk about the importance of taking time out to care for your own health and wellbeing during your loved one's breast cancer journey. They also mention practical tips and ways you can look after yourself and seek support. 

View a captioned version of You’re important too - looking after yourself as a carer.

You can also download a PDF or order a hard copy of the You're important too - looking after yourself as a carer fact sheet on our Booklets and fact sheets page.  

Information for partners

Women often tell us that they feel shock, disbelief, fear and uncertainty when diagnosed with breast cancer. As the partner of a woman diagnosed, your feelings can be similar.

It’s normal for partners to feel overwhelmed and to experience a whole range of emotions: shock, numbness, uncertainty, fear, helplessness, sadness, anger, depression or anxiety.

There is advice on how to support a partner with breast cancer as well as tips on looking after yourself on our Information for partners page.

Information for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) partners

LGBT partners have unique needs and concerns in addition to the common concerns that all partners experience. You may worry about how members of the treatment team respond to LGBT couples. You may also be concerned about being excluded from important decisions involving your partner or not being recognised as a partner or carer by health professionals. It is helpful to seek care from a medical team who is sensitive to your needs, respects your privacy and encourages you to be involved.

Specific information and support for same-sex couples can be found on our Information for same-sex partners page.

Support for family members in a carer role

Other than partners, family members can also take on a caring role, either as a sole carer or someone who shares caring responsibilities with others. You might find it helpful to get access to practical support, counselling and peer support.

The Carer Advisory Service provides information and advice to carers and their families about carer supports and services. Call 1800 242 636. 

Young Carers Australia provides information and support for young carers, including confidential counselling by telephone (1800 242 636).

Information for friends and colleagues

If you’re a friend or colleague of a person diagnosed with breast cancer, it may be hard to know how to help or support them on this journey.

Our section on helping a family member, friend or colleague with breast cancer has some suggestions from women who have had breast cancer or you can download BCNA’s Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancer brochure.

Caring for someone who is facing breast cancer with a disability 

Caring for a loved one with a disability and breast cancer can bring up unique challenges. It may help to hear stories from other carers in a similar situation. 

In BCNA's video, Caring for someone with a disability: the impact of breast cancer, carers of women with a disability and breast cancer share their experiences, and provide tips for other carers on looking after their own health and wellbeing. 

You may also like to read Understanding breast cancer: information for carers of a person with a disability - a BCNA fact sheet that is designed to accompany the above video. 

This fact sheet provides a basic understanding of breast cancer for carers of a person with a disability. It also provides information on some of the ways that your role might change when the person you are caring for has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

You can download a PDF or order a hard copy of Understanding breast cancer: information for carers of a person with a disability through our Booklets and fact sheets page

Specific information for people with a disability and their carers can be found on our Facing breast cancer with a disability webpage

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