Rankin, N, Newell, S & Sanson-Fisher, RW 1998, Consumers' opinions of the draft guidelines: 'Psychosocial clinical practice: providing information, support and counselling to women with breast cancer', report prepared for NHMRC National Breast Cancer Centre, Sydney, NSW.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer type experienced by Australian women (1). The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer can result in a range of psychological and emotional challenges for women, including coping with the shock of diagnosis; physical changes in body appearance and functioning; side effects, such as anticipatory nausea, vomiting and fatigue; anxiety and depression; and coming to terms with progressive illness and approaching death (2). For some women, the experience of breast cancer continues to affect emotions long after diagnosis (3). Health care providers should be aware that, for a substantial minority of women, there can be residual concern about recurrence and fear of checkups for many years after the original diagnosis (4). A growing emphasis on recognising that many women who have experienced breast cancer will have remission periods of up to 20 years has emerged in the oncology literature and has important implications for health care professionals (5). A great deal of knowledge has accumulated about the benefits of psychosocial support for women with breast cancer. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Early Breast Cancer are evidence-based guidelines which were released in October 1995 (6). These guidelines indicated the importance of psychosocial support but provided only general information about optimal standards of care in this area (6). Therefore, new evidence-based guidelines on the psychosocial care of women with breast cancer are under development by the National Breast Cancer Centre (NBCC).