Breast cancer awareness month may almost be over, but frequent checks of your breast should never stop.
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That's the message from the local McGrath breast care nurses.
There are three McGrath breast care nurses based in Dubbo - Margie Collins, Vanessa Hyland and Krystal Brassington.
Between them they covered 250,000 people and an area about the same size as Great Britain, Ms Collins said.
Their role is to help women, and men, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, from the time they'e diagnosed until their treatment and beyond.
Ms Hyland said the breast care nurses were the person on the other end of the phone someone could call whenever they had a question. Essentially, she said they're "coordinating, supporting and giving information when it's needed".
"It's a privilege to do the job. We get to meet some amazingly strong, resilient women - and men because men do get diagnosed," she said.
"You do get to know them quite well as they're going through treatments. You form good bonds and you get to know their families... They let you into their world and their feelings and emotions at a stressful time.
"You meet some amazing people. That keeps me in it."
It's the same reason Ms Brassington became a breast care nurse. She splits her time as a breast care nurse and oncology nurse at the Western Cancer Centre.
For Ms Collins, one of the highlights is being "a good strong link" between the person who is diagnosed and the medical team, from oncologists to surgeons to other allied health nurses.
However, she jokes the other highlight was when Ms Hyland started working as a breast care nurse 11 years ago, and she no longer had to do the role on her own, followed by earlier this year when Ms Brassington also joined the team.
Ms Collins, who has been a breast care nurse for 21 years, said she had witnessed the impact medical advances were making.
When she first started there was a "huge gap" in services between those in the city and those in rural and regional areas, she said.
"You were 40 per cent more likely to die of a cancer-related illness out here. It's not that big now," she said.
Survival rates have also increased.
"When we first started, 73 per cent of women would be alive and well after five years, now it's 92 per cent," Ms Collins said.
"It's how far treatments and technology has come. Research has bought us forward."
Ms Hyland said early detection was the key.
"We know that breast screens have really made a difference in those survival rates. Picking up cancers early is key," she said.
"Anyone over 40 is eligible to go to BreastScreen for a free mammogram. Before that it's just being breast aware and knowing what is normal for you. Be aware of any breast changes, and following through if you notice anything."
In 2022, there were 20,640 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates women have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85.
In 2022, it was the second most-commonly diagnosed cancer.
Anyone who has been diagnosed is encouraged to reach out to the breast care nurses for help.
"You don't need a referral to the breast care nurses," Ms Collins said.
"We often get referrals from the surgeon or the GP but women and men can self refer. Just ring the Dubbo Community Health Centre - (02) 5853 2500."
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