Ninety seven per cent of ‘urgent’ patients seen at UHG’s breast centre within ten days

Some 97 per cent of “urgent” patients are seen within 10 days at the symptomatic breast centre at University Hospital Galway.

The facility, one of eight such designated centres throughout the country, got a positive review in a report compiled by the health watchdog HIQA recently.

Statistics reveal that 98 per cent of patients are seen within 10 days of a breast cancer diagnosis at the centre while 93 per cent receive surgery within 20 days of diagnosis.

Dr Ray McLaughlin, lead breast surgeon at UHG, says waiting lists in this area have been cleared.

“We are now seeing all patients within the time frame established by the National Quality Assurance Standards, which means that all urgent patients are seen within two weeks. While 68 per cent of women who have surgery here do not need mastectomies, for those that do, we have the highest level of immediate breast reconstruction in the UK and Ireland.”

He explains the hospital is implementing cutting edge technology which allows radiotherapy to be delivered using a balloon type device over five days rather than six weeks which is easier on patients.

The facility’s participation in cutting edge international clinical trials is the highest in the country, according to Dr McLaughlin.

“The research programme at University Hospital Galway is also extremely active in terms of publications, clinical and laboratory science with the supporting roles of the National Breast Cancer Research Institute and the Clinical Trials Unit.

“I would like to pay tribute to the team here at the Symptomatic Breast Centre whose efforts have delivered such positive results for patients.”

Pat Commins, acting general manager at Galway University Hospitals, says the HIQA report highlights the “very positive work” that has been under way over the last number of years at the breast centre at UHG.

“The numbers of cancers diagnosed in our centre in Galway has increased to almost 500 last year and we have increased our breast cancer diagnosis rate by 500 per cent. University Hospital Galway and our satellite centre in Letterkenny General Hospital is one the largest units in the country both in terms of patients seen and cancers treated and the HIQA report has endorsed the high quality service being delivered at the unit.”

He says the latest review by HIQA is a reflection on the “hard work and dedication” of the staff at the symptomatic breast unit.

“We remain committed to building on the progress made to date ensuring the best possible outcomes for the patients attending our service.”

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in Ireland. It accounts for 30 per cent of all cancers in women in Ireland with approximately 2,500 new breast cancer cases diagnosed each year. It continues to be the most common malignancy in women.

Internationally, breast cancer mortality rates have decreased slightly despite the rise in the incidence of breast cancer in the last two decades. However, due to improvements in technology and treatment, the prospects of long-term survival and improved quality of life are increasing.

Although not nearly as common, men also develop breast cancer. The Central Statistics Office reported that 731 women died from breast cancer in 2008 making it a significant public health issue. Between 1994 and 2001 the mortality from breast cancer was reported to be 33 per cent higher in Ireland than in the United States and in the upper third of rates in European countries.

Early detection of all cancers is the best strategy for reducing cancer deaths. If diagnosed early, breast cancer is treatable in most cases. It is also important to note that nine out of 10 women who visit their GP with breast symptoms are found to have a non-cancerous condition.

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