A BREAST cancer nurse serving the Wimmera and Northern Grampians regions has thrown her support behind calls to increase the Medicare rebate for survivors.
Wendy Crafter, a McGrath Foundation breast care nurse based at the Wimmera Cancer Centre in Horsham, said doubling the Medicare rebate from five free visits with an allied health professional per year to 10 visits would help people fighting the long-term side effects of treatment.
The Breast Cancer Network of Australia is pushing for the rebate increase as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
It also wants more funding for allied health outpatient services in Victorian public hospitals.
Ms Crafter said there were some allied health services in the Wimmera looking after the side effects of chemotherapy - but those services are in high demand.
"Survivorship is a big component of (cancer treatment) nowadays," she said.
"People are living a lot longer and with the medical technology available providing better treatments and outcomes, that survivorship rate is a lot higher."
The breast cancer network said long-term side effects of treatment could include swelling in the arms and legs due to damaged lymph nodes, sexual dysfunction, anxiety and depression - all of which required ongoing visits to allied health specialists.
Ms Crafter said those visits could be expensive and time-consuming.
"It would be great if (more subsidised visits) were to come to fruition," she said.
"We rely a lot on physiotherapists in areas like Warracknabeal, Nhill and Edenhope to help with the symptoms of Lymphoedema, but people are still going to be out of pocket, which is unfortunate."
The breast cancer network has released survey results suggesting average out-of-pocket expenses for breast cancer survivors reached $5000 in the first five years after diagnosis.
Ms Crafter provides care for people with both early and metastatic breast cancer, across both public and private health services. She has been working in the role for six years.
She said people needing to travel more than 100 kilometres one way for specialist medical treatment could receive financial support via the Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme.
"It still means being away from your friends and supports," she said. "You've got to take time off work and be away from family... it's just a big revolving door for some people unfortunately."
The group Horsham Friends Abreast exists to give breast cancer survivors emotional support.
Co-ordinator Barbara Eltze said the group met on the first Friday of each month at Horsham RSL.
"We're really just there to have a talk," she said. "We have all been through the same diagnosis, but have had different treatments."
Ms Eltze said the group would stage its annual display at Horsham Civic Centre on Monday, October 14.
Dozens of pink silhouettes of women will be on display in the courtyard on Monday, with residents able to pay for a silhouette via donation.
Thirty-nine women lost their lives to breast cancer in the Grampians region in 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services says.
The Grampians region includes the Ballarat and Pyrenees municipalities.
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