St James's Hospital Breast Care Unit is one of eight designated breast cancer centres in Ireland. We provide a high quality service for patients with all forms of breast disease. We see approximately 11,000 patients per year and diagnose approximately 350 breast cancers.
The unit is staffed by a specialist breast care team that includes:
The Breast Care Unit currently provides:
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.
This service is delivered in accordance with guidelines set by the National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease and the HIQA standards.
Return / Follow up Appointments
Return / Follow up appointments are made at the time of attendance at the clinic or by calling the Breast Care Unit.
If your symptoms change/worsen before your appointment date please contact your GP for another assessment.
New Patient Appointments
All patients referred by a GP or another consultant are seen promptly at the Breast Care Unit. A consultant surgeon prioritises all referrals based on clinical need and then appointments are allocated. Patients are notified of their appointment date and time either by post or by telephone.
Return Patient Appointments
Return appointments are made at the time of attendance at the clinic or by calling the Breast Care Unit. This also includes the Review Clinic, Oncology and ad-hoc Breast Cancer Family Risk Assessment Clinics.
If you have symptoms and have been referred to the symptomatic breast clinic, you may be invited to have a mammogram if you are over 35 years old. This is an X-ray of your breasts.
You may also need an ultrasound scan. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your breasts. It helps to determine the nature of a lump or of the abnormality. It may be needed to find out if a lump in your breast is solid or contains liquid.
Your breasts are made up of thousands of tiny glands (lobules) that produce milk. This glandular tissue contains a higher concentration of breast cells than other breast tissue, making it denser.
Dense breast tissue can make a mammogram difficult to read. Lumps or areas of abnormal tissue are harder to spot.
Younger women tend to have denser breasts. This is why mammography is not routinely performed in women under 35 years. As you get older, the amount of glandular tissue in your breasts decreases and is replaced by fat. This means your breasts become less dense.
A biopsy is where a sample of tissue cells is taken from your breast and tested to in the laboratory. You will be given a local anaesthetic injection to numb the area and will be awake for the procedure.
Biopsies can be taken in different ways. A small sample of tissue is taken from a lump in your breast using the ultrasound machine to help the doctor to sample the correct part. Your doctor may suggest that you have a mammogram guided needle biopsy; this is called a stereotactic biopsy.
The breast cancer family risk service in St James’s Hospital is a nurse-led service.
The service manages the care of women who are known to have a BRCA 1, BRCA 2, CDH1 or PALB2 gene mutation. It also manages the care of women who have an equivalent (similar) risk to these gene alterations.
New non-gene related referrals are managed via a nurse-led telephone consultation clinic.
New referrals will receive a family history questionnaire that must be completed and returned to the service.
Dedicated guidelines and criteria are utilised to calculate and predict each patient’s individual risk for the development of breast cancer over their lifetime. Recommendations are made and written information is sent to the patient and their GP.
These women will be managed by their primary care team (GP) and will not attend for clinical review.
Where appropriate a referral to the cancer genetics services at St James’s Hospital will be made.
The breast unit offers surgery for a number of breast complaints including benign (non-cancer) breast conditions and breast cancer.
Benign (non-cancer) Breast Surgery
The breast unit operates via the day ward in St James's Hospital for benign breast conditions. If you have been recommended to have breast surgery you will be added to the waitlist and contacted directly by the day ward department when a date becomes available.
Breast Cancer Surgery
The breast care team will discuss all cancer surgeries with you in person; further information can be found on the “Breast Cancer” section of SJH website.