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Breast Care

At the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Breast Unit, we provide comprehensive breast care to more than 12,000 patients each year.

Our unit is the largest in the south west, and one of the only a few units in the country offering Oncoplastic surgery. We strive to deliver the highest standard of care to all of our patients and remain at the forefront of diagnosis, treatment, research and training in breast disease.

To achieve this we actively support and encourage patients to participate in nationally and internationally run trials so that we can explore new frontiers in preventing, diagnosing and treating breast cancer

The Breast Care Team

Our breast care team includes:

  • Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeons
  • Specialist Radiographers & Radiologists
  • Specialist Breast Care Nurses
  • Histopathologists
  • Clinical & Medical Oncologists (The Sunrise Centre)
  • Clinical Psychologists
  • The Specialist Breast Anaesthetic Team
  • The Specialist Breast Theatre Team
  • Specialist Breast Ward Nurses & Out­patient Clinic Nurses
  • The Breast Admin & Secretarial Team (Mermaid Centre & RCHT)

Key Contacts for the Breast Care team

Surgical Breast Secretaries

Nikki Olsen (Prof Drew, Mr Brown)
01872 252720

Sarah Maker (Mr Ahmad, Mrs English)
01872 253141

The Mermaid Centre Reception

01872 253777

Breast Care Nurses

01872 252988

Imaging Secretaries

01872 252972 or 01872 252208 or 01872 253797

Breast Screening Programme Administrator

Catherine Rule
01872 252884

MDM Coordinator

Kate Symons
01872 252897

Radiographers

01872 253769

Nurses’ station

01872 253766

The Mermaid Centre

All breast clinic and diagnostic work is carried out at The Mermaid Centre, a purpose-built diagnostic facility at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

The Mermaid is home to the Cornwall Breast Screening Programme (NHS BSP) and the Oncoplastic Breast Unit. We also monitor patients with a family history that maybe at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

It was one of the first units in the UK to have a fully digitalised mammography screening service.

Our commitment to providing the highest possible quality screening programme was judged the best screening programme in the region in 2008, and among the best in the UK by the South West Screening Quality Assurance team. In October 2011, the Mermaid Centre was one of the first breast units in the country to be endorsed by Breakthrough Breast Cancer for our Service Pledge commitment to the patients of Cornwall.

Breast Screening using Mammography

Around one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. The likelihood of recovery is high if breast cancer is detected in its early stages. All women aged between 50 and 70 who are registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every three years.

The breast screening programme uses low-dose X-rays to examine the breasts and look for different types of tumors and cysts. Mammography has been proven to reduce mortality from breast cancer.

Like all x-rays, mammograms use doses of ionizing radiation to create this image. Radiologists then analyse the image for any abnormal growths.

If you are invited for breast screening or a mammogram, you may come to the Mermaid Centre, our dedicated building for Mammography (see above for more details). We also have two mobile vans for breast screening that visit the following towns:

  • Redruth
  • Newquay
  • Truro
  • St Austell
  • Wadebridge
  • Falmouth
  • Hayle
  • St Ives
  • Helston
  • Camelford
  • Penzance

You can find out more about breast screening and mammography on the NHS Choices website.

Breast Surgery at St Michael's Hospital

Almost all breast surgery is performed at St. Michael’s Hospital in Hayle, which is home to the specialist Oncoplastic Breast Unit, and the regional specialist orthopaedic centre.

It has 4 laminar flow operating theatres, and since opening in 2009 one of the two new state of the art theatres has been dedicated exclusively for breast surgery.

The St Michael’s ward is a bright, clean and peaceful, female­ only ward for breast surgical patients with a dedicated and highly specialised nursing team, skilled in caring for the specific needs of women undergoing Oncoplastic breast surgery.

Oncoplastic Breast Surgery

Oncoplastic Breast Surgery is the new gold standard in the modern surgical treatment of the breast and brings together the most effective cancer treatment with the best possible cosmetic outcome.

Oncoplastic Breast Surgeons are qualified to provide expertise in cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention, and can perform surgery that incorporates therapeutic, reconstructive and cosmetic breast surgery when indicated.

Referrals to the Breast Care Service

You can either be referred directly from your GP for diagnosis and treatment under the two-week urgent referral protocol, or through the Cornwall NHS Breast Screening Programme.

GPs referring to the service

For urgent referrals, please fax a copy of the referral to the central referrals office on 01872 252300.

For non-urgent referrals, you can refer your patient to the Mermaid Centre using the Choose and Book system.

Urgent referrals

Breast lumps:
  • Any new palpable breast lump which is suspicious of breast cancer
  • Any lump associated with nipple or skin changes
  • Any new skin dimple
  • Skin changes characteristic of peau d’orange
  • Mammographic abnormality suspicious of cancer.
Inflammatory:
  • Suspicion of inflammatory breast cancer or persistent mastitis / abscess.
Nipple changes / discharge:
  • Blood-stained nipple discharge
  • Clear nipple discharge
  • Nipple eczema suspicious of Paget’s disease
  • Nipple retraction or distortion of recent onset.
Suspected male breast cancer:
  • Non-tender breast lump in a male (male breast cancer does occur: 0.2% of all breast cancers).

Routine referrals

Symptoms:
  • Recurrent breast cysts in a patient with a past history of benign cysts
  • Persistent breast tenderness or nodularity
  • Persistent breast pain not responding to simple pain killers
  • Non-blood-stained nipple discharge
  • Tender gynaecomastia in a male.
Family history of Breast cancer
  • One first-degree relative* diagnosed with breast cancer under 40 (or under 45 for chemoprevention studies)
  • Two or more first or second-degree relatives
  • One or more first-degree relatives with bilateral breast cancer.

(* a first-degree relative can be a mother, father, sister or daughter, and a second degree relative can be an aunt, grandmother or granddaughter)