A new era for the care of breast cancer patients in the Mid-West was marked yesterday with the official opening of a €3m treatment unit at University Hospital Limerick.
The unit, which occupies the fourth floor of the Leben Building, means that for the first time women in the MidWest have a single centre for all breast outpatient needs.
Professor Niall O’Higgins, chairman of UL hospitals group and one of the country’s leading breast cancer specialists, said reform in the organisation of symptomatic services for cancer patients has been complex and difficult, but has led to eight highly specialised and effective centres.
In 2015, there were 206 new breast cancers diagnosed in the breast unit at UHL, the women ranging in age from 23 to 96 years with a median age of 68.6.
Activity continues to increase annually.
Prof O’Higgins said: “During the past 10 years the service has been transformed from an incoherent loose arrangement to a system of high-quality care with equality of access and scrupulous accountability.
“With the number of new and return attendances having more than doubled over the last decade, from 3,073 in 2005 to 6,726 last year, the increase in activity alone was a compelling reason to find a new home for the breast unit,” he said.
Helen Leo, a breast cancer survivor from Nenagh, Co Tipperary, said the breast unit women attend in 2016 is a far cry from the environment in which she received her diagnosis in 2010.
She said: “Women who like me went through the old breast unit will know of its shortcomings. You had to wait for your consultation, even for an initial diagnosis, in a claustrophobic space under a stairway which was very unwelcoming and almost cruel.”
Shona Tormey, consultant breast surgeon, said: “The breast unit in UHL, one of the eight NCCP centres, offers all aspects of breast and breast cancer care including triple assessment, breast reconstruction and oncoplastic surgery, and dedicated family history clinics.”
The development was financially backed by the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust.
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