New Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse for the Top End, Ruby Hilario, says she will be able to increase the level of support for the 100 Territorians diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
The position provides dedicated prostate cancer care coordination for cancer patients at Royal Darwin Hospital and Palmerston Regional Hospital.
This includes supporting patients during surgery, acute treatment at Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre and interstate treatment.
“The unique nature of this role is that the patient and family will be able to access my services by phone and face to face where they can discuss their concerns with someone during such a difficult time,” Ms Hilario said.
About 100 Territorians are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
The Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse aims to provide information and decision-making support at diagnosis, and care coordination through treatment and beyond.
“My main role is to make sure newly diagnosed patients are looked after in the coordination of their care and appointments, and to provide them with education and resources such as other support groups,” Ms Hilario said.
“The role also provides support to men who have previously been treated for prostate cancer and are dealing with side effects. I had a patient who was diagnosed [with prostate cancer] on his birthday. I was helping him with the side effects of his treatment. He said it was having that one person who had the time to help him through his diagnosis and treatment that gave him a sense of relief.”
The growing numbers of those diagnosed with prostate cancer highlighted the need for the specialist nurse service, Ms Hilario said.
“More patients are being diagnosed at an earlier stage. Getting this role up and running provides a specialist service for men with prostate cancer who are living longer and having more issues coming up.”
Ms Hilario first started as a urology RN working at the Royal Darwin Hospital five years ago; she had been a CN for the past three and a half years until her recent appointment. Ms Hilario worked alongside a prostate cancer nurse in the NT while the position was funded in 2013.
“People think we just deal with ‘wees’ in urology but a urine test can tell you a lot of things. I got to work with the prostate cancer specialist nurse and got to understand what the nursing role really involved.”
Prior to the new dedicated prostate cancer nursing role, Ms Hilario also looked after those with bladder, kidney and testicular cancer who required a range of treatments including surgery, radiotherapy medicine and oncology.
“I will now be able to increase the level of support for those diagnosed with prostate cancer. I am able to provide a greater level of support from diagnosis, treatment and follow up. Part of the role is helping them to navigate the healthcare system and be their voice and liaise with other health professionals to get the best treatment.
“There is a lot of decision making, it’s making sure patients have all their treatment options explained to them to be able to make an informed decision and to be prepared for any treatment.”
This includes consequences of treatment, such as erectile function, Ms Hilario said.
“No matter the person’s age, it’s still important to them and they need to be aware of side effects of treatment. You are unlikely to have erectile function after a radical prostatectomy. Treatment impacts on the erectile function and it’s something to be addressed when discussing treatment options.
“Some men will require a radical prostatectomy, I refer them to a physio six week prior to their operation date as they have got to know how to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles before the operation to help improve their outcomes.”
Funds raised by Run With Dad in Darwin in 2018 will contribute towards ongoing costs of the role through the PCFA.
Ms Hilario said she felt very humbled to be appointed to the new role.
“It’s such a rewarding role. I like to work autonomously and this gives me a sense of great satisfaction. There are not so good days after I see patients who have not had good outcomes. Even though it’s challenging and every day is different, I go home with a smile on my face and feel fulfilled.”