With advances in Radiology and biopsy techniques breast surgery nowadays is almost completely about treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer management requires a multidisciplinary approach. We are now fortunate in Rockhampton to have Radiotherapy services available (Genesis Care at Rockhampton Hospital) and both local and visiting medical oncologists who provide the expertise for chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Breast Cancer Surgery
Surgery for breast cancer has evolved considerably in the last thirty years or so, mainly due to advances in breast imaging (mammography, ultrasound and more recently MRI). There are two areas to consider when planning surgery for breast cancer: the breast itself and the axilla (glands in the armpit that receive lymph tissue fluid that drains from the breast).
The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer nowadays are diagnosed at an early stage, when the tumor is generally impalpable (unable to be felt). This has come about because of the emergence of Breast Cancer Screening. These women can usually be offered breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) which when combined with postoperative radiotherapy, provides the same long-term result compared to removing the whole breast (mastectomy). The advantage is to provide the patient with a good cosmetic result. However, not all women are able to be offered breast conservation. Examples include:
- Large cancers in a small breast.
- Multicentric cancers (in multiple areas of the breast).
- Cancers close to the nipple.
Dr Andrew Russell will discuss each individual case with the patient and the patient is very much involved in the decision-making progress.
Standard breast cancer surgery used to involve the removal of a block of glands (lymph nodes) under the arm to treat the axilla and provide guidance as to whether further treatment in the form of chemotherapy was required. Unfortunately, this operation could sometimes lead to significant complications such as a permanent swollen arm (lymphoedema). It is also completely unnecessary if there is no cancer in these glands. We now routinely practice a technique called Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy, which is the gold standard for the management of the axilla in patients with breast cancer. It allows us to just examine the initial (sentinel) glands that receive lymph drainage from the breast. If they are normal, no further axillary surgery is required. This technique allows over 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer to be spared an unnecessary axillary dissection.
Dr Andrew Russell will explain this to you at your consultation once again involving you in the decision-making process. Dedicated breast care nurses play an important role in a patient’s management during this traumatic time.
Breast Care Nurse Service
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be overwhelming and create many questions.
The Breast Care Nurse Service in Rockhampton is available to all women and men receiving treatment for breast cancer. We have advanced knowledge about breast cancer and skills to provide supportive care from the time of diagnosis and throughout your breast cancer treatments. Breast Cancer and its associated treatments can affect the individual in various ways. Breast Care Nurses can provide information and resources to assist you with your physical and emotional wellbeing. We can link you with other health care professionals such as Physiotherapists, Lymphoedema therapists and counsellors/psychologists.
These professionals can offer support face to face, or via the phone. This is especially helpful for those who live outside of Rockhampton district. We are based at the Rockhampton Base hospital and referral to our service can be made via your specialist, GP or you and your family can self-refer.
You can find our contact details from Dr Andrew Russell’s team or from the Mater Hospital.