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What is Breast Cancer?

18 October, 2022

Author: Niamh Byrne, Breast Care CNS, Breast Care Team

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to divide and grow in an abnormal way. Breast cancer is not one single disease and there are several types. It can be diagnosed at different stages and can grow at different rates. Breast cancer can be non-invasive (also called ‘in situ’) or invasive.

Typical signs and symptoms can include:

  • Breast Lump
  • Lump or mass in the armpit (axilla)
  • Change in size or shape of the breast
  • Nipple Changes (discharge / inversion)
  • Rash / Flaky / Crusty Skin
  • Dimpling / Puckering / Redness of skin
  • Orange peel appearance of skin

Diagnosing breast cancer

To be offered an appointment in The Breast Care Department a referral needs to be made by either your GP or doctor. All referrals received to The Breast Care Unit are triaged (prioritised) based on clinical need and appointments are offered accordingly.

Patients with breast complaints are seen in a symptomatic breast clinic. There are a combination of steps to help diagnose a breast complaint:

  • Clinical examination by a breast specialist
  • Breast diagnostic imaging (such as ultrasound and/or mammogram)
  • A core biopsy and/or fine-needle aspiration

Results are given in person approx. 7-10 days after your biopsy.

Treatment of breast cancer

The aim of treatment is to remove the cancer and reduce the risk of it returning in the breast or spreading to other parts of the body. Treatment decisions are made by following local and national guidelines developed by breast cancer experts and others involved in caring for people with breast cancer. All cases are discussed at the breast multi-disciplinary team meeting to ensure each patient receives the most appropriate treatment.

There are lots of ways breast cancer can be treated. In order to decide the most appropriate treatment for your cancer, your team will assess:  

  • The size of the breast cancer
  • The type of breast cancer
  • Whether the breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under your arm or any other part of your body

The main treatments for breast cancer are:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Biological therapies

You may have one or more of the treatment options listed above.

Who can you expect to meet?

As breast cancer treatment can involve many different modalities patients can expect to meet many members of the multi-disciplinary team throughout the course of their treatment.

During your initial visit to the breast surgery department or oncology department you will meet with a clinical nurse specialist. These nurses are best placed to support you throughout your cancer journey.

You may also meet other members of our team, including senior and junior doctors, physiotherapists, social workers and occupational therapists who will help you get back to your normal activities and lifestyle.

Who are the Breast Oncology team?

The Breast oncology team in SJH are made up of a large group of various members of a multidisciplinary team:

  • Specialist Breast Surgeons
  • Specialist Breast Radiologists
  • Advanced Nurse Practitioner – Breast Cancer / Oncology
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists - Breast Cancer / Oncology
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist - Family Risk
  • Specialist Mammography Radiographers
  • Advanced Nurse Practitioner - Breast Radiology
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist - Breast Radiology
  • Specialist Breast Pathologists
  • Medical Oncologists
  • Radiation Oncologists
  • Administration staff
  • Data Manager

How to contact us:

Breast Care Department: (01) 416 2192

Breast Care CNS team: (01) 410 3857

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