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.
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.
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.
- BCNA’s Resources for people who are caring for someone with breast cancer: information and support fact sheet provides a comprehensive and helpful list of information resources, organisations and services for carers.
- If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer and want advice on telling your loved ones, please see our page Talking to family and friends. The page also contains useful information for friends, family and colleagues.
- Cancer Council Australia’s Caring for Someone with Cancer booklet (PDF) addresses common emotions and feelings that carers might experience, and outlines practical tips on how to balance the demands of caring, family, work and carers’ own needs.
- Carers Australia’s website provides more information on incentives available for carers or you can call them on 1800 242 636.
- The Department of Human Services (Centrelink) supports primary carers financially through various schemes. You can also contact the Carers Line on 13 27 17.
- If you need to talk to someone, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
This project was part of the Cancer Australia Supporting women in rural areas diagnosed with breast cancer program, funded by the Australian Government.