Breast care patient 's story

Jane Smith*, 52, from Chorley was one of the first patients to be seen at the Central Lancashire Breast Unit when it opened in July 2012.

She said: “I was referred to the Unit by my GP because I’d started experiencing some painful sensations around one of my breasts, and it had become a bit lumpy and not as firm as the other one.

“I was initially a bit reluctant to go and see my GP because my symptoms were quite vague and I felt a bit of a fraud when I arrived for my appointment at the Breast Unit because they had almost disappeared. I was sure the pains were a sign of some kind of hormonal imbalance, or the onset of the menopause.

“When I arrived at the Breast Unit I had a mammogram, which involved undressing to the waist and standing in front of the mammography machine. My breast was placed between two plates and then compressed, it was firm but gentle.

“The results of the mammogram were not conclusive, so I had a further examination by one of the consultants and then an ultrasound scan which involved undressing to the waist again and this time lying on a couch. Lubricating gel was spread over my breast and the clinician used a hand-held probe to get an image of my breast tissue.

“During the ultrasound examination, the radiologist found something irregular which needed further investigation.  I stayed in the same room, and the consultant radiologist gave me a local anaesthetic and a needle biopsy, which was a little uncomfortable but it was over quite quickly.  Even without the results of the biopsy they were able to tell me that day that there was a small tumour on my breast and that I would need further treatment.

“It was an emotional roller coaster of a day, but the support I felt from the team was amazing, and that was so important in helping me deal with what was ahead.

“Shortly after my initial diagnosis at the Breast Unit I had surgery and then radiotherapy. I was able to contact the staff at the Unit at any time and it was so reassuring to know that they were there, and that they knew me and I knew them. I didn’t just feel like a number in a faceless organisation.  All my appointments at the Unit were organised by telephone, everything was so personal and that was also really reassuring. 

“I now have follow-up appointments at the Breast Unit every few months and I’ll be on hormone treatment for the next few years.  I feel lucky that I was able to have all my tests on the same day at the Unit.  I know that in other places all of these tests have to be carried out at separate appointments over a number of weeks which must be a really anxious time for anyone going through this who has to wait for weeks to get their final diagnosis.   Getting my results and information about the next steps with my treatment on the same day meant that I knew exactly what was ahead and I was able to start treatment really quickly, rather than losing weeks waiting for test results to be available.”

 *A pseudonym has been used at the patient’s request.