New grant brings breast care database to life

09 Feb 2023

A generous grant of $50,000 from long-time supporter, the Collier Charitable Fund, has enabled the creation of a patient information database for the St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne Breast Surgery Unit. The new portal, called BRENDA, will not only collate patient medical information, but it is the only database in Victoria to include a routine collection of patient-reported outcomes. Its holistic approach promises to improve breast surgery patient treatment and outcomes for generations to come.

Breast surgeon, Jocelyn Lippey, said the creation of the BRENDA database has been a dream shared with Head of Breast Surgery, Caroline Baker, for the past five years. “We feel so fortunate to receive this funding that will enable our dream to become a reality.

IMAGE: L-R: Suraya Roslan, Dr Jocelyn Lippey, Miss Christina Foley, Miss Caroline Baker, Annabelle Motteram, Rafaela Anja

“The treatment of breast cancer is very personalised. What hasn’t previously been collected is patient feedback regarding side effects, as well as patients’ thoughts and experiences relating to breast reconstruction, body image and sexual wellbeing after their operations. By capturing what matters to our patients, we can improve treatment, streamline processes and minimise side-effects. Ultimately, this will have positive impacts on recovery and quality of life after breast surgery.”

Suraya Roslan, Department of Surgery Research Coordinator, who has been instrumental in getting this project off the ground, will manage the BRENDA database. “I’m excited to see the benefits of collecting specifically focused patient data over the coming months and years. We are very grateful to the Collier Charitable Fund for their generous support in making this happen for the Breast Care team and our patients.”

Positively impacting patient care
Breast cancer patient, Mikayla Roberts, was the very first patient to log her experiences into the BRENDA database.

In July 2022, Mikayla discovered a lump in her breast. At just 28 years old, Mikayla has always been fastidious about her breast checks because the curse of breast cancer has impacted her family. Her grandmother and her grandmother’s sister both went through breast cancer and her aunt died of breast cancer in her 20s. Mikayla has a fault in the BRCA1 genetic mutation.  

Mikayla recalls that the lump started small but grew into a massive lump. “After seeing my doctor, he quickly referred me to get an ultrasound, then a mammogram and finally a biopsy. Shortly after this, I received the frightening diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer.”

“I first met Caroline in September. I am so thrilled she has an all-woman surgical team. She’s been amazing, so caring. She even called me when I was halfway through my chemo treatments, just to see how I was going,” Mikayla said.

Mikayla and her mum are hopeful that having her surgery on Valentine’s Day is a good omen. “Mum joked that I’m getting new breasts for Valentine’s Day.”

Mikayla has remained extraordinarily positive throughout her harrowing cancer journey. “I cried a lot in the beginning, but now it’s become my new normal. My partner, Joshua, has been my rock and my parents have been wonderful. Mum has taken two months off work to help me and Dad takes me to chemo every Monday.

“It has changed my perspective about what matters and who needs to stay in my life. I used to be a workaholic, now I’m trying to live life a bit.”  

IMAGE: Mikayla with her partner, Joshua.

The benefits of sharing her experience
“I’m so pleased to have the chance to provide feedback about my cancer experience. This information not only assists the doctors, it could also be used for research and so it will hopefully make the experience for future patients just a little bit easier.

“Hearing from the patient, the side effects we experience, how we feel about the whole process, the emotional rollercoaster you go through, all the holistic elements, I think can really help things to change for current and future patients.

“I’m so glad to have the opportunity to share my story, especially as a young woman going through cancer. It is a really scary experience, but I hope my feedback can help others have a more positive experience,” Mikayla said.

Thank you to the Collier Charitable Fund
The team at St Vincent’s thanks the Collier Charitable Fund for their generosity. Through their support, the BRENDA database will change the lives of breast cancer patients for generations. 


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