Breast Care: Service Update (11-11-2020)

Breast Services (Primrose Breast Unit)

The impact of Covid 19 currently means that we are running an outpatient symptomatic breast service which is in very high demand.  As a result, we may not always be able to meet the recommended 2 week wait to be seen, with patients on average being seen at 3 weeks.

Clinics for patients following surgery, and other support services following a diagnosis, are however operating as normal including the mammography surveillance programmes for those within 5 years following surgery.

All referral requests are currently being triaged by a member of the team. Some of these referrals will be deemed suitable for a Video-Link or telephone call by one of our experienced clinicians who may address your needs without the requirement for you to attend the department.

It is with regret that we have to limit access to some reconstructive services, with some patients having completion of their reconstructions delayed. Other breast surgery is however proceeding although please be aware that there are slightly longer delays than normal.


Breast Screening

Following the lockdown earlier in the year, we have recommenced breast screening in the 50-70 year old age group, but in line with National Policy, we are not able to offer screening to women aged 71 or above who self-refer.

We continue to provide screening in the Guildhall Centre and on our new screening van, although there is a considerable delay in our programme caused by the stoppage of service during the first wave, and the need to run a slower but Covid-Safe programme. Other screening services such as high risk screening and extra test clinics are currently operating as normal and in a timely manner.

In the interest of patient and staff safety we are requesting at this time that patients come alone to the department for all appointments except when receiving results, or when assistance is required.

Breast Care

For information on Breast Cancer and Coronavirus, visit the Breast Cancer Now website.


Primrose Breast Care Centre is designed to provide a dedicated facility for investigation and treatment of benign breast problems and breast cancer, bringing together the surgical, radiology, and breast care nursing teams. We see over 4000 patients per year either referred to us by GPs or asked to attend from the National Health Service Breast Screening Programme. Primrose Breast Care Centre is located on level 7 at Derriford Hospital. The Centre was opened in 2001, funded through the generosity of the Primrose Foundation together with the Hospital.

New Patient Clinics
If you have been referred to breast clinic it is natural to feel a bit anxious. You may find it helpful to bring a friend or relative with you for your appointment. 

When will I be seen? 
Patients referred urgently will be seen within 2 weeks from referral. We also aim to see those referred routinely within 2 weeks. 

How much time should I allow for my appointment? 
The clinic is a one stop clinic. This means that we aim to perform all the tests you need at the one appointment. Because of this, the appointment can take up to 4 hours depending on what tests you need. Most people are in clinic for about 2 hours. You may wish to bring something to read to help pass the time. There are magazines available to read in the clinic.

Who will I see in clinic? 
You will meet the clinic nursing staff. Your appointment will be with one of the breast surgeons but you may be seen by one of the doctors on the team. If you have breast imaging you will also meet the radiographers and the consultant radiologist or advanced practitioner. You may also meet the breast care nurse who is there to provide information and support.

What happens at clinic? 
You will be seen by and asked questions about the problem, about periods and any pregnancies, and family history of breast diseases. You will also be examined. If you need any tests these will be done next. After you have had the tests a doctor will discuss the results with you. 

What tests might be done? 
Which tests you may have depends on what your symptoms are. The two most common breast imaging tests are mammograms and ultrasound. Mammograms are breast X-rays. Both breasts are normally X-rayed. In order to get the best possible X-ray picture with the lowest X-ray dose, your breast will be compressed slightly for this test. This may be slightly uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful.   Ultrasound involves using sound waves to create a picture of the inside of your breast. Ultrasound is painless and safe and is the test commonly used to look at babies in the womb. 

Some women will need to have a sample taken from a lump or an area of breast tissue. This can be done by the doctor feeling the possible lump or sometimes using mammograms or ultrasound to locate the possible abnormality. 

Fine needle aspirate (FNA)- uses a very fine needle to take some cells from a breast lump. These are sent to the laboratory to be analysed. 

Core Biopsy- uses a spring loaded needle to take a sliver of tissue from the breast. Using local anaesthetic. a small nick is made in the skin and the needle takes a few samples which are analysed by the laboratory. 

Stereotactic image guided biopsies- a few people will need to return another day to have an area sampled using mammograms to guide the sample. This is usually when something can be seen on mammogram but not felt. It is not possible to do this test at your first clinic appointment. 

When will I get all my test results? 
This depends on many factors however we aim to give you your results within 2 weeks though this will depend on a number of factors.

What if I need an operation? 
It will be discussed with you by the doctor or breast care nurse. Many breast operations can now be done as day surgery but some will require a stay in hospital. Length of stay depends on the operation. 

Breast Centre Staff 

  • Surgeons: Mr. S Ramzi, Miss S Jenkins, Miss Veroiotou and Mr Simonca
  • Radiologists: Dr J Steel, Dr K Paisley, Dr C Roobottom, Dr Sarah Doyle, Dr Toth and Dr Lloyd. Advanced Practitioner Radiographer Mrs. M Jenkins
  • Breast Care Nurses: Kate Lansdell (Lead), Sarah Laine, Cathy Herd, Gemma Pooley, Rachel Wood, Sue Parker and Breast support nurse Kellyann Whalley.
  • The Multidisciplinary Team: There is a team involved in your care which meets weekly to review cases and plan treatment. The team includes histopathologists, oncologists, radiographers, clinical trials nurse as well as the Primrose clinical staff. 
  • Administration: Our work would not be possible without a dedicated team of Medical Secretaries, Clerks, Appointments Clerks and Office Staff who support us. 
  • Medical students: We help to train medical students. Sometimes students will be working with us. If you are willing to see the student it will help their training. You do not need to see the student if you do not wish to. 

Breast Care Nursing 
The breast care nurses role is to provide information and support for patients, in particular, patients diagnosed with or being investigated for breast cancer. The breast care nurses have a wide range of patient information. They meet with individuals to help prepare them for surgery. The breast care nurses also provide a prosthesis fitting service, helping to restore body image for women who have had mastectomies. 

Support Group 
There is an active patient led breast cancer support group. For more information contact the breast care nurses. 

To download the Primrose Unit Patient Information Leaflet, click here.


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