Breast cancer is currently the second most common cancer in women in Ireland. Each year, it affects approximately 3,000 women and 20 men in this country. All of the body’s organs and tissues are made up of building blocks called cells. In healthy tissue, cells replace or repair themselves when they get injured or are worn out. Breast cancer occurs when cells do not behave as normal and continue to grow. The exact cause of breast cancer is, however, unknown. Certain risk factors can increase your chance of developing breast cancer, including:
St James’s Hospital is one of the eight national breast centers treating both benign and malignant breast disease. Approximately 11,871 patients were seen at its clinic in 2019, of whom 357 were newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment options for breast cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiotherapy and other drug treatments. Your treatment plan will depend on the type of breast cancer you have, and each patient’s care pathway will be individually tailored to their needs.
Hormone therapies are medications that are used to destroy cancer cells or slow the progression of cancer cell growth. It might be given before or after surgery. It can help to make the cancer smaller before surgery (neoadjuvant) or can help reduce the risk of recurrence when given after surgery (adjuvant). It can also be given to treat breast cancer that has spread or come back. You might receive hormone therapy if your breast cancer is hormone-receptor positive.
There are many different forms of breast cancer, and these are usually divided into two types: Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive breast cancer.
The aim of treatment is to stop any spread of cancer and, if possible, to remove all the cancer from your body. In deciding the most suitable treatment, your doctor will consider:
Treatment plans in the hospital are discussed by the consultant breast surgeons, consultant breast radiologists, consultant pathologists, consultant medical oncologist, consultant radiation oncologist and breast care nurse specialists at the multidisciplinary team meeting. The main treatments for breast cancer are:
These therapies may be used individually or in combination to treat breast cancer. Surgery is referred to as local treatment, radiation as loco-regional treatment and chemotherapy and hormone therapy as systemic treatment. You will be given the treatment that is right for you.
There are two types of breast surgery:
There are two types of axillary surgery, referring to surgery of the armpit carried out to determine the course of treatment based on whether the cancer has spread.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. Chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery. It can help to make the cancer smaller before surgery (neoadjuvant) or can help reduce the risk of recurrence when given after surgery (adjuvant). It can also be used to treat breast cancer that has spread or come back. The drugs can be used as a single agent or in combination with each other. The drugs used in chemotherapy travel through the bloodstream to almost every part of the body, and they are often given in cycles of two to three weeks with a rest period in between. They may be given as an injection, an intravenous drip or in tablet form. The side-effects may include:
Hormone therapies are medications that are used to destroy cancer cells or slow the progression of cancer cell growth. It might be given before or after surgery. It can help to make the cancer smaller before surgery (neoadjuvant) or can help reduce the risk of recurrence when given after surgery (adjuvant). It can also be given to treat breast cancer that has spread or come back. You might receive hormone therapy if your breast cancer is hormone-receptor-positive.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. The aim is to kill the cancer cells while causing as little damage as possible to normal cells. Radiotherapy is given after breast surgery, especially breast-conserving surgery, or after chemotherapy as adjuvant treatment. This is done to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. It can also be given to help shrink a large tumour. If the cancer has spread and is causing pain or pressure, a small dose of radiotherapy can relieve pressure by reducing the cancer size. The side-effects may include:
Biological therapies are also known as targeted therapies. Most targeted therapies work like the antibodies made by your immune system, using the body’s immune system to fight cancer and other diseases. These drugs target specific features of cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapies do not harm healthy cells. Targeted therapies used in the treatment of breast cancer include:
Consultant Breast Surgeons
Advanced Nurse Practioner (ANP)
Clinical Nurse Specialist in Breast Care
Clinical Nurse Manager II in Breast Care
Clinical Nurse Specialist in Breast Family Risk
Clinical ANP in Breast Radiology:
Clinical Nurse Specialist in Breast Radiology
Consultant Radiation Oncologists
Clinical Nurse Specialist in Radiation Oncology
The following are contact details for breast cancer support services:
Irish Cancer Society
43/45 Northumberland Road
National Cancer Helpline
Phone: 1800 200 700
Marie Keating Foundation
Millbank Business Park
"I was actually in very good health; I lead a very active life, I walk, play golf, swim and I'd even took up set dancing, so this was completely out of the blue."
"To say that I was shocked was a complete understatement, I never ever thought from the lifestyle that I lived that I would get breast cancer."
Mr Alazawi’s secretary (01) 428 4121
Mr Boyle’s secretary (01) 416 2530
Ms Connolly’s secretary (01) 428 4123
AnneMarie Geoghegan - Breast Family Risk secretary (01) 428 4190
Celina Windrum - Routine Review Clinic (afternoon clinics) Secretary (01) 428 4120
Breast care Nursing (01) 410 3857
Carol Spillane - CNS Breast Family Risk (01) 428 4034
Breast Imaging Appointment Queries (01) 410 3420