Celebrating One Year of the Perth Breast Cancer Institute

This August marks one year since Breast Cancer Research Centre-WA expanded our services to include the Perth Breast Cancer Institute (PBCI).

PBCI, the clinical arm of Breast Cancer Research Centre, merges an impressive team of experienced specialists and other healthcare professionals working collectively to ensure the best outcomes for our patients.

The PBCI brings together specialist breast surgeons, medical oncologists, and a team of breast physicians. In addition, PBCI includes two clinical psychologists, a genetic counsellor, a breast medical oncology fellow and two specialised breast care nurses.

With Perth Radiological Clinic and GenesisCare also located at the Hollywood Consulting Centre, our new location provides a centre of excellence for breast cancer services in WA.

Our team of world-class specialists include:

  • Professor Arlene Chan Medical Oncologist
  • Dr Peter Willsher Specialist Breast Surgeon
  • Dr Hilary Martin Medical Oncologist
  • Dr Jose Cid Fernandez Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon
  • Mr Richard Martin Specialist Oncoplastic Breast, Endocrine and General Surgeon
  • Dr Bindu Kunjuraman Oncoplastic Breast and General Surgeon
  • Dr Farah Abdul Aziz Oncoplastic Breast and General Surgeon
  • Dr Kallyani Ponniah Oncoplastic Breast and General Surgeon
  • Mr Palan Thirunavukkarasu Oncoplastic Breast and General Surgeon

Breast Clinic
The Breast Clinic is the newest addition to our services. Working with Perth Radiological Clinic, the clinic allows for rapid assessment and review of urgent cases. Our two highly experience breast physicians, Dr Pamela Thompson and Dr Susie Kitchin, also treat benign breast concerns and provide ongoing surveillance for people at high risk of breast cancer.

Genetic Counselling
Associate Genetic Counsellor Bhavya Vora brings a wealth of expertise to our suite of services. If a genetic fault is suspected to be involved in a person with breast cancer, an in-depth discussion of family history and breast cancer risks can provide direction on whether further testing may be helpful and what further steps, if any, are appropriate for that individual.

Clinical Phycology
BCRC-WA also offer a bulk-billed clinical psychology service to support patients of PBCI and their families. Our clinical psychologists collaborate with the patient’s care team to assist patients in managing the impact of breast cancer. Mary Scott and Francoise Ballantyne, both very experienced psychologists, specialise in the impact of early and advanced breast cancer on all aspects of the person and their families.

Breast Care Nurses
Our focus is on holistic care for patients and their families throughout their experience with breast cancer. We are very proud to be able to offer each patient the opportunity to be paired with a breast care nurse, to provide ongoing information, support and to assist patients in navigating their journey with us. Cath Griffiths is our Early Breast Cancer Nurse and Amanda Goddard is our Advanced Breast Cancer Nurse. Both provide a consistent and caring point of contact between the patient and the rest of the breast care team.

What’s next for BCRC-WA?

We continue to select and design research projects which will further increase global knowledge of breast cancer and improve outcomes for people with breast cancer worldwide. We are also passionate about education. The PBCI team have already begun writing a library of patient information pamphlets with five published so far. The pamphlets are available in our rooms and online.

We believe that sharing our knowledge and expertise in breast cancer treatments with other healthcare professionals, patients and families will result in all Western Australians being offered evidence-based, gold-standard care wherever they are treated. To this end, we are planning two major educational events with a GP Education Forum on Breast Diseases and an update on metastatic breast cancer for the breast cancer oncology community both coming up in October.

It has been an exciting and significant year for BCRC-WA and we look forward to providing excellent care to Western Australians and their families throughout the coming years.

Chemo Wise Information Session for women starting treatment for early breast cancer

This is a pre-chemotherapy education session available to early breast cancer patients under the care of the Perth Breast Cancer Institute.

The educational session covers:

  • Look Good Feel Better workshop registration
  • Chemotherapy side effects and management
  • Exercise and breast cancer
  • Pharmacy
  • Tour of  the chemotherapy suite where you will have treatment

This session also allows you to ask any questions you may have and to meet the team who will be involved in your care.

RSVP is essential. Please email Jess Danti on jess.danti@bcrc-wa.com.au.

Kiara’s Story

In the Summer Edition of What’s News we  feature the patient story of Kiara. Kiara was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age and speaks about the months of surgery and chemotherapy that followed. Kiara is an inspiring young woman and we are privileged to share her story with you. 

I had just celebrated my 30th birthday, started a new job, formed a new relationship with my soul mate and I was blissfully happy. Just when I thought my life was perfect and nothing could burst my bubble my whole world was rocked.

On what was a normal Tuesday night at home, I was lying in bed with my partner watching Netflix, only for him to discover a lump in my breast. My stomach dropped, I felt instantly ill and had the gut instinct that what we had discovered was going to be a tumour. With the knowledge of me having the BRCA1 mutation I booked into the doctors immediately the next day. I was then referred for an ultrasound which acknowledged the lump was not a cyst, and I was then referred for a core biopsy the next day.

On the 27th March 2020 I was called in urgently to the doctors. My heart was racing, I knew the results were bad. Sitting down facing my doctor before she could even get the words out I said, “I have cancer don’t I?”, and on that day I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hormone Receptor Positive Breast Cancer. It was aggressive and growing fast, but my first reaction was wanting to know what I had to do to fight this . Being told I had cancer was the easy part, then having to call my partner and family and explain to them my diagnosis was absolutely heart breaking.

Among all this madness COVID-19 had just hit and the world was in a frenzy as it was. Being diagnosed with cancer in a pandemic added extra stress to my situation. I was lucky enough to have been recommended Professor Arlene Chan and Dr Peter Willsher by a friend, and booked in immediately with Dr Willsher three days later. After discussing my options with Peter it was obvious that my best chance of beating this was to attack the cancer straight away with chemotherapy, as my cancer cells were growing at 87%. Only three weeks later, after a consultation with Professor Chan and several tests, I was in for my first round of chemotherapy. I felt numb, lost in a whirlwind of emotions that I cannot describe, but I was so determined that cancer was not going to beat me. I am so young, I have so much life to live and too many people I care about who I was not ready to leave.

After five and half months of gruelling chemotherapy I was well and truly knocked down and exhausted, but it still wasn’t going to stop me. I finally made it through 11 rounds of chemo but not without the pain, fatigue, nausea and not to mention emotional strain. Two months later it was surgery time. I had a bilateral double mastectomy and reconstruction with tissue expanders. After the surgery I got the most fantastic news that the surgery could not have been more successful, and between that and the chemotherapy they had removed all the cancer from my body. This made all the pain and exhaustion feel worthwhile. Five weeks later I am still in recovery and pain every day, but it has all been worth it.

I will keep fighting and do whatever I have to do to stay healthy. I will be forever extremely grateful for the amazing team which has got me to this point of my life, especially Professor Chan, Dr Wilsher, and my amazing nurses Cath and Fran. I believe that I am extremely lucky to have met all these amazing people and I couldn’t have done it without them, my partner, family and friends. The fight is still not over, with another surgery to follow in December for the removal of my expanders and insert of implants, and then also the scary confrontation of taking away all potential risks of me developing ovarian cancer, but I am a fighter and I refuse to give up and I will not let this beat me. My biggest lesson from this experience has been that you need to be vigilant in looking after yourself, and staying on top of all testings and screenings to catch cancer early. Also that life is short. You never know what is around the corner, you need to make the most of it and appreciate the simple things in life like your family, friends and partners, and don’t dwell on things because the good old saying is true – “Life is Short ”.

To anyone who is in a similar situation or the early days of diagnosis, no doubt you are frightened about what is ahead, and probably wondering how you are going to get through this. My best advice to you is:

  • listen to your doctors – they are the professionals for a reason
  • surround yourself with loved ones
  • keep a positive mind, and
  • don’t be afraid to ask for help

Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read my story or has been there through my journey, I hope to inspire hope people the best I can.

Read more Stories of Hope.