The Hobart

Support for Expensive Cancer Test Could Reduce Need for Chemo

by Kirsten Bacon
Support for Expensive Cancer Test Could Reduce Need for Chemo

“Good Morning, My name is Dr Smith. I am here to tell you that you have stage two breast cancer”… And here begins a story of adventure.

When I first heard those words, I was still believing this was not really so bad and they are just being precautionary. It takes a while to understand fully what is being said. That week was a blur. My mother had a stroke two weeks earlier and was currently still in hospitality. As a family we were trying to navigate the aged care system, stroke recovery and the implications so my diagnosis was actually incredibly annoying and timed very badly. People would say to me “such bad timing Kirsten”. I wonder if there’s ever good timing to tell someone they have cancer?

I was diagnosed with Stage Two Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Grade Two. I went off to have breast preservation surgery and removal of lymph nodes that presented with a small focus of metastatic tumour. I have completed radiation therapy and I now take the drug Anastrozole which is chemo that you get after your primary treatment, such as surgery or radiation.

Recurrence is a word used a lot in your cancer adventure. How long do you have before it may recur? I’m thinking ‘well I’m not even contemplating the possibility of recurrence’, so you feel surprised that the discourse often refers to recurrence.

I’m a parent, running a family, some struggling as a result of COVID unem­ployment, teaching in the public educa­tion system, assisting my mother, and trying to maintain a sense of normality whilst there is a pandemic.

When someone gives you a diagnosis of cancer it’s a terrifying experience. For me personally it has been eight weeks of in­credibly overwhelming feelings – of grief, sadness, loss and worry. While I feel I’m coping well generally, I’m also acutely aware of the impact this has had on my mental health.

There is a reason for telling my story. I want to talk about a test I had which enabled me to make some decisions about my cancer care. The Oncotype DX is a test that predicts how likely it is that your breast cancer will return. It also predicts whether you will benefit from having chemotherapy in addition to hormone therapy.

The test results can help make a treatment plan that’s right for you. For this test, a piece of cancer tissue that was removed during my surgery is examined. A group of 21 genes in this tissue are analysed to help determine prognosis (how likely my breast cancer is to return) and if getting chemotherapy will improve my chances that the cancer will not come back.

In Tasmania alone we had 207 women screened and detected for breast cancer in 2020. I was lucky and so fortunate to fit into a cohort of women who have been extensively studied by the National Cancer Institute. Over 5000 women par­ticipated in this study but unfortunately to be part of this group I needed to have a Recurrence Score.

If I didn’t take the expensive test, the standard treatment would be chemother­apy. In my case I was very fortunate to have a wonderful friend and brother who paid for me to have it. Having this test gave me an opportunity to make an in­formed decision about my treatment. My recurrence score came back at 19, with an approximate 1.5 percent benefit if I was to have chemotherapy.

While the test is covered free in some other countries, it costs $5000 dollars to the patient in Australia. This can mean the difference between having chemotherapy or not. Can you imagine being in one of the most vulnerable positions to be told you maybe would need to have chemo­therapy and the only way you can find out whether or not is by paying for this test?

I have also been surprised to find it was not even covered by private medical cover, which I have had all my life. Also, chemotherapy is covered by private cover, but not radiation. Thank goodness, we have a Medicare subsidised health system!

More needs to be more done. More re­search will help and benefit other women. I’m curious – chemotherapy would cost a lot more than $5000 per patient and I’m confused as to why this test is not avail­able to all men and women with a breast cancer diagnosis.

In finishing…My name is Kirsten and I’m going to be a cancer survivor.

Love this

Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close
Exploring Tassie These Winter School Holidays
We know that staying indoors with the family isn’t always fun. And while it’s obviously cold outside, you’re only a puffer jacket and beanie away from being comfortable and ready to explore. There’s lots of family fun to be had in all sorts of weird and wonderful places across the state these school holidays.
Sand Surfing on the Peninsula
The half-day walk to Crescent Beach in the Tasman National Park offers so much- including epic sand dunes for surfing and incredible views.
27 Hobart Friends Get Snipping For One Off Wine
The borders were declared shut in Tasmania on the 30th of March, 2020; the first stare to do so amid the COVID- 19 pandemic and hard lockdown of Hobart followed.
Danphe Nepalese and Indian Food + Peppermint Bay Bar and Bistro
Nepalese food is a comfort in our house. Having spent much time trekking and mountain climbing in Nepal as a younger man, Nepalese food is something I always love to go back to.
That’s DR Hannah Gadsby To You
From Smithton to Netflix and the Emmys stage, Tasmanian stand up comic Hannah Gadsby has forged an unlikely path. Following on from the massive success of her shows Nanette and Douglas, Hannah brings her new show Body of Work to Hobart this month.
PODCAST: Incat founder Robert Clifford on why electric boats are the future
Robert Clifford is the founder of Incat, a Hobart company building fast ferries for the world. Always looking to future opportunities, he has identified where Hobart sits in the next wave of transportation. For more of this interview listen to The Hobart Magazine podcast.
Is Tourism Ready For More Forestry Wars?
Tasmanian forests are special. They’re home to centuries-old trees, including the tallest flowering trees on the planet, and support unique native species. Yet not everyone agrees on how these forests should be managed.
Hobart Chefs: When The Obsession Becomes Real
Tasmania’s brand as a foodie haven is cemented. But within the local hospitality industry there are those who love to use local produce...and those who are next-level obsessed with it. We spoke to a bunch of Hobart chefs who are top of the game when it comes to fostering relationships with local farmers and growers.
Did You Know Australia’s First Female Doctor Was Hobartian?
Tasmania, despite its small size and population in comparison to the mainland, has produced more than its proportionally predicted percentage of significant figures and heroes of Australian history. 
Return Travellers Adding Pressure to Hobart Housing
For all of us 2020 was a year like no other, punctuated by rapid change and plenty of new challenges. For vulnerable people in Tasmania, including people facing homelessness, those on low incomes and those facing increasingly higher rents, it was very challenging. We are seeing a growing demand for homes in Tassie from international travellers returning home, people moving for work and others seeking the lifestyle that our Apple Isle has to offer.
Magazine
AboutContributeAdvertiseNewsletter Sign UpContact
August 2022

Stay up to date with everything happening at the Hobart Magazine.

Thank you to Luke Brokensha for mobilising his friends and local residents recently to host two rubbish clean ups along the Hobart Rivulet after heavy rains.
The warm weather returns...hello summer.
Need a laugh? Check out @theinspiredunemployed feed on Instagram.
Moto Vecchia Cafe in Bellerive and Czegs Cafe in Richmond have joined the Clarence City Council dementia program, creating dementia-friendly spaces for all patrons.
It’s hard to believe it’s not standard practice to have a working phone in every aged care room - shared phones make private conversations impossible and increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Tacks on the tracks. Mountain bikers beware of tacks being left on certain tracks on the mountain.
Just when you think your cousins are alright. NZ Opposition Leader Judith Collins took aim at Tassie during her recent (unsuccessful) campaign, calling us Australia’s “poor cousin.” She also seems worried about us nabbing tech businesses, “It’s a lovely part of the world but do you necessarily want to go there with your high- tech business? Possibly not,” she said. We beg to differ!