Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre

Breast Cancer – It’s not always a lump!

October 3, 2023 | Blog
Breast Cancer – It’s not always a lump!

Jane is a patient of the breast cancer service in Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre. Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022 and here she shares her story and important message:

“My name is Jane, I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 46 and I’m telling you my story because I want you to know that you should see your GP if you notice any changes to your breast. Breast Cancer does not always mean finding a lump or detection by mammogram. I first noticed a small rash near my right nipple in September 2022. My GP thought it could be eczema, I’ve never had any skin complaints and when it didn’t improve she promptly referred me to the Breast Cancer Rapid Access Clinic in Beaumont Hospital.

When I first came to the clinic I met Professor Hill’s team, I was examined and quickly had a mammogram and ultrasound on that same day. Nothing showed up on these, given my age and the fact that I had no other symptoms and have no family history of breast cancer I felt very reassured. However, the importance of following up was impressed upon me. I was prescribed a steroid cream and given a follow-up appointment. Even though the rash improved it didn’t go away and so, after a further observation period, the team advised me to have a biopsy. This made me feel confident that all avenues were being fully investigated, I felt assured that I was ‘in the system’ and the team would soon have an explanation for the rash.

I was given the results of my biopsy in clinic and I was shocked to learn that my diagnosis was Paget’s Disease (which I had never heard of) with Breast Cancer (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma ER+, PR+, HER2+). At that same appointment I was given a clear plan for the initial treatment based on the histopathology report.  I learned about the MDT meetings and it was helpful for me to know that I was already scheduled for an MRI, which was followed by wire guided ultrasound and then a wide local excision of the area.

I recovered quickly from the Wide Local Excision and removal of sentinel nodes, which were clear of cancer, but the results of this and further MDT discussion helped me understand that there was a very small focus of invasive breast cancer in 3 parts of my breast which had proven difficult to locate by imagery and ultimately I decided with my team the best treatment for me was to proceed with a double mastectomy with immediate DIEP flap reconstruction which was scheduled within weeks. At all stages I felt hugely supported by the team in Beaumont in learning about my own diagnosis and was well informed about all decisions and options before and after my surgery and results. I was encouraged to ask questions. I took a lot of notes and benefitted from the MDT process and in-person consultations with familiar and very kind faces. I felt that a team of highly experienced and specialised experts contributed to my diagnosis and treatment plan.

My mastectomy and reconstruction in May was very successful. I have since undergone a course of Chemotherapy under Professor Patrick Morris and will continue with Herceptin treatment for a further period of time. With the support of my employer I am back to full time work.

I’m a survivor of breast Cancer. My message to others is to prioritise your own well-being and contact your GP if you notice any changes to your breast. It really is the most important form of self-care. I had no lump or other symptoms, no family history and would not be called to BreastCheck until 2026, yet I had breast cancer.

I have benefitted hugely from the knowledge and experience of Professor Hill’s team and will always be grateful to them and also to my husband Dan who encouraged me to see the GP initially and is always in my corner”

Breast Cancer Nursing Team

Anne Staunton, Breast Care Nurse: “I was Jane’s Breast Care Nurse, I am one of the six clinical Nurse Specialists in Breast Care and we meet our patients in the Triple Assessment clinics (TAC) and the review clinics.  My role was to be there for Jane at the time of her diagnosis and throughout her patient journey in Beaumont.  As with all my patients I provided Jane with my contact details so she could phone me directly with any questions about her diagnosis and treatment plan I could make sure she had all the information and support she needed”.

“All patients with cancer have their case discussed at a multidisciplinary meeting, these are held every week with Surgeons, Medical and Radiation Oncologists, Pathology and Radiology Consultants and the Nursing Team. Results of scans and pathology are discussed so that the best possible diagnostic or treatment options for patients can be made by the whole team. The results of these meetings were explained to Jane in clinic to help her make decisions about her treatment”

Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre Breast Cancer Team