DIAGNOSIS AND ASSESSMENT
There are two ways that breast cancer can be diagnosed. The first is called screening and you can access free breast screening services by phoning 132 050. The second is via self detection. If you feel a lump in your breast and are concerned, see your local GP who can arrange for screening with a mammogram and/or ultrasound.
After you have a screening mammogram either through BreastScreen or at a private radiologist, there may be an abnormality detected such as a small lump causing some scarring or some calcium spots. Usually at these radiology practices or BreastScreen, a fine needle or core biopsy is done to prove the diagnosis. If the biopsy comes back normal, but the x-ray looks abnormal it is still best to be referred to a breast surgeon.
At this stage you may have been told your diagnosis by your general practitioner or BreastScreen. This is the time to contact Macquarie University Hospital so we can rapidly get you assessed. It doesn’t matter who you see first as your case will always be discussed by all our multidisciplinary treatment team.
Our specialists will meet with you, take your medical and family history, and examine you. Further tests may be necessary.
For patients with more advanced cancer we regularly perform more detailed investigations including breast MRI, Computed Tomography (CT) scans and/or positron emission tomography (PET Scan). Although these tests are not covered by Medicare, they provide us with more detailed information about the inside of your breast, as well as the lymph glands or nodes around your breast area to ensure that the breast cancer has not spread to any other parts of the body. Our research has shown that PET scans, for example, can change treatment strategy in about one in four patients.
Our multidisciplinary team meets regularly on a Tuesday morning where x-rays and pathology reports are reviewed and a treatment plan recommended. In all of this we look at what you need. No single plan fits every patient.
Every patient has various challenges at home or at work or may live at home with elderly parents or young children. All these issues, and most importantly your personal wishes, need to be taken into account.
We treat a lot of rural patients and have on-site accommodation. We are sensitive to the fact that rural patients struggle when they are away from home without their usual support or access to family. We can tailor therapy with shortened treatments of radiotherapy while maintaining the most sophisticated approaches with oncologists who have a deep understanding of what the best treatments are available. Access to clinical trials is often available, if appropriate and if required.