Significant rise in new breast cancer cases diagnosed at Galway Unit

There has been a significant increase in the number of new breast cancer cases diagnosed at the Symptomatic Breast Unit at Galway University Hospitals, according to a new report, just launched.

The 2011 annual report of Symptomatic Breast Care Services highlights a rise in the number of new cancers diagnosed while at the same time a fall in the number of new patient referrals.

In 2011 it dealt with 6,932 new patients and made 372 cancer diagnoses while during the previous year it catered for 7,778 new patients and made 333 diagnoses.

Mr Ray McLaughlin, a consultant surgeon and the lead clinician at the unit, says the most striking aspect of the report in terms of activity that year was the “significant increase” in the number of new cancers diagnosed.

“The diagnostic tests triple assessment ), treatment options and the access to clinical trials available in Galway compare favourably with any international centre and the team here work extremely hard to ensure that we provide a world class service for breast cancer patients across the region.”

The annual report reveals that all “urgent” patients got an appointment within 10 working days and 98 per cent had surgery within 20 days of definitive diagnosis surpassing the National Cancer Control Programme targets on both counts.

Other key findings are that 97 per cent of patients requiring surgery and radiotherapy began their radiotherapy treatment within 12 weeks of their final surgical procedure and that same day imaging was provided to all patients triaged as urgent. A total of 99 per cent of patients had chemotherapy within eight weeks of their final surgical procedure.

The study point out that UHG provides the lead nationally for implementing clinical trials in radiotherapy for breast cancer patients. Galway remains the only centre in Ireland to offer women the opportunity to participate in the three All Ireland Co-operative Oncology Research Group sponsored trials.

In addition, the research programme at the unit is “extremely vibrant” in terms of publications, clinical and laboratory science with the supporting roles of the National Breast Cancer Research Institute and the Clinical Trials Unit at GUH, according to a spokesperson for the HSE West.

Since the establishment of the National Cancer Control Programme in 2007 the Breast Care Service at UHG has expanded rapidly with additional consultant and staff appointments, infrastructure developments and the opening of a purpose-built facility as part of a complex which includes BreastCheck and the National Breast Cancer Screening Programme. The Symptomatic Breast Unit also includes a satellite centre at Letterkenny General Hospital.

Bill Maher, the chief executive of the Galway and Roscommon University Hospital Group, says the unit has seen “enormous developments” over the last six years.

“There has been a profound change in the way we provide the service which has been completely rejuvenated. The radiotherapy development and oncology services at Galway University Hospitals now provide every component of state-of-the-art breast cancer treatments for women with breast symptoms.

“The service has a very proactive quality assurance programme which gives us confidence that we are providing a service on a par with anywhere in the world both here in Galway and at the satellite centre in Letterkenny.”

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