Department of Health extends stroke and breast cancer consultations

Public consultations on reshaping stroke and breast cancer services in Northern Ireland have been extended by the Department of Health (DH).
The consultations, due to end on 2 August, have now been extended until 30 August.


The department has proposed that the number of breast cancer assessment services be reduced from five to three.
Between three and five hyper-acute stroke units are proposed. Services are currently spread across 11 hospitals.
Health bosses admit service shortcomings
‘Unacceptable’ breast cancer delays in NI
The proposals relating to breast cancer assessments would mean centres in Belfast’s City Hospital and Craigavon would close.
The remaining three – at Altnagelvin, Antrim, and the Ulster hospitals – would remain open.
Health chiefs argue that removing assessment services from the City Hospital will enable staff to concentrate on patients attending other cancer treatments.

There are two models out for consultation about stroke services.

A model with three hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs) includes the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Craigavon in the Southern Health Trust, and Altnagelvin in the Western Trust.

Another option, which suggests five HASUs, would also include Antrim Area Hospital in the Northern Health Trust and the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.

Specialists argue that expertise is currently being spread too thinly, denying some people access to the best care.

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Undergoing regular breast examination is important in detecting cancerous growths because, in the early stages, cancer of the breast may not manifest any symptoms at all. As cancer develops, women may experience one or a combination of the following.
A painless hard lump with uneven edges in the breast or armpit area.
Noticeable change in size, shape, feel, and texture of the breast and nipple.
Unusual fluids, such as pus, coming out of the nipple.
For women in advanced breast cancer stages, symptoms may include bone pain, pain and discomfort in the breast area, skin ulcers in the breast or underarm, weight loss, and swelling of one arm.

How to Prevent Breast Cancer?

Since some risk factors are uncontrollable, awareness is the most important step in fighting the disease. In general, having a healthy diet and lifestyle reduces a person’s chance of getting cancer. Early detection of cancer raises the cure rate, and thus, breast self-examination (BSE), clinical breast examination, and screening mammography are highly recommended.

Experts advise BSE once a month for women over twenty. The test should be done a week after their menstruation. For those between the ages of twenty to thirty-nine, the clinical examination should be done every three years.
Women above forty are generally advised to undergo a complete breast examination and mammography once a year. Breast MRI should also be done for women who have higher breast cancer risk factors.

Certain drugs, such as Tamoxifen, are approved by the USDA for cancer prevention in women aged thirty-five or older. Preventive prophylactic mastectomy, or the surgical removal of the breast, is advised for those who already had one breast removed and those identified to have genetic mutations that raise tumor risks.

What exams and tests are involved in the detection of breast cancer?

Your doctor will gather information about your symptoms and risk factors. A thorough physical examination, including the breast, armpit, chest, and neck, would then be performed to check for possible tumor growth.

To confirm the diagnosis, additional tests may be performed; this includes mammography, breast MRI, CT scan, and PET scan to identify the breast lump’s size, shape, and location. A breast ultrasound is also done to check if the lump is solid or is filled with fluids. Needle aspiration and sentinel lymph node biopsy are done for further laboratory examination of a breast lump and adjacent lymph nodes.

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