Information for breast cancer patients

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50, but younger women can also get it. In rare cases, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.

About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. There’s a good chance of recovery if a breast cancer is detected in its early stages.

The two most common forms of breast cancer are:

  • Non-invasive: Some cells in the lining of the ducts of the breast tissue have started to turn into cancer cells. It hasn’t yet spread outside the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue. It’s usually found during a routine mammogram (breast screening) and rarely shows as a breast lump.
  • Invasive: The most common type of breast cancer. The cancer cells have grown through the ducts/lobules into the surrounding breast tissue. An invasive breast cancer has the potential to spread to other areas of the body. This doesn’t mean that it has or will spread, and treatment aims to reduce the risk of this happening. The main type of invasive breast cancer develops in the cells that line the breast ducts.

There are other types of breast cancer and further information about these can be found on Breast Cancer Care’s website

Our unit provides diagnostic and treatment services for benign breast conditions and breast cancer. These may come as GP referrals or via the breast screening programme.

We work in partnership with the Royal Marsden Hospital and with the support of our breast care nurses team, we provide an integrated, comprehensive and sympathetic care pathway.

We aim to see everyone suspected of having breast cancer within one week of the referral to the unit, and within a maximum of two weeks, via our one-stop clinics.


These include:

  • Surgery to breast(s) and/or lymph nodes under the arm
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Hormone (endocrine) therapy
  • Targeted (biological) therapy
  • Medication, including bisphosphonates

In early breast cancer, surgery is usually the first treatment. Depending on the type of surgery and what is learned about your cancer after looking at it under a microscope, you may be advised to have one or a combination of the treatments listed above.

Sometimes chemotherapy or hormone therapy may be given before surgery.

In a very small number of women, breast cancer is found after it has spread to another part of the body (secondary breast cancer).

Secondary cancer, also called advanced or metastatic cancer, is not curable and the aim of treatment is to control and slow down the disease, relieve symptoms and maintain quality of life.

Breast cancer patients at Kingston Hospital may be invited to take part in a clinical trial into their care. Trial results help doctors to plan future treatment.

You can read more about the different treatment options

Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA)

If you have cancer, you often need care, support and information above and beyond the management of your condition.

At a holistic needs assessment, a doctor or nurse will discuss your physical, emotional and social needs. It’s about you as a whole, not just your illness.

This is a chance for you to share as much as you want about your worries and concerns. It will help us to clarify your needs and make sure you are referred to the relevant services.

It’s not compulsory, and if you decide not to have an HNA it won’t affect your care. But many patients find it useful because it identifies what help is available – and the doctor or nurse carrying it out can refer you to other services.

An HNA may be offered:

  • Around the time of diagnosis or start of treatment
  • When surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy has been completed
  • Any time a patient asks for one

Key staff

Several health professionals are involved in your breast cancer treatment. They are known as the multi-disciplinary team (MDT). This includes:

  • Consultant breast surgeon
  • Medical oncologist
  • Clinical oncologist
  • Radiologist and radiographer
  • Pathologist
  • Advanced nurse practitioner
  • Breast care nurse (keyworker)
  • MDT coordinator

The MDT meets weekly to discuss the results of tests and surgery and agree individual treatment plans.

Your keyworker

All breast cancer patients will be introduced to one of our team of breast care nurse specialists, who have had specialised training in all aspects of breast care.

They can provide expert advice and guidance on a patient’s breast cancer treatments and possible side effects and provide psychological and emotional support to you and your family.

The nurse is also your keyworker, who works closely with the consultant surgeons and other experts involved in your care.

The keyworker will keep in close contact with you from diagnosis and throughout your care pathway. This offers continuity for patients, carers and families, as they have a point of contact for advice and support.

You can contact the team’s office on 020 8934 6363 and leave a message at any time.

Further support

Watch a short video from RM Partners group to support patients with understanding breast pain.

For information about how breast cancer treatment can affect your fertility, you can be referred to our fertility service or read more here.

Some treatments can cause menopausal symptoms. You can read more here.

We provide a Moving Forward course, a four-week programme to help you adjust and adapt after a diagnosis. Find out more here.

The hospital provides a post-surgical appliance service such as breast prostheses, post-surgical bras and bra fillers.

Our breast care nurses facilitate a monthly clinic for mild to moderate lymphoedema assessment and management. They also provide a nipple/areola tattooing service for women who have had breast reconstruction following surgery (Kingston patient referrals only).

The hospital’s physiotherapists also provide a six-week post-breast cancer exercise class.

National Audit of Breast Cancer in Older Patients (NABCOP):

Compared to the national average, more women treated for breast cancer at Kingston Hospital, across all age groups, had contact with a breast clinical nurse specialist to provide information and support during diagnosis and treatment.

You can also find information and support at:

Anxiety UK:

Breast Cancer Care:

Breast Cancer Haven:

Breast Cancer Now:

Cancer Research UK:

Macmillan Cancer Support:

NHS Choices:

Breast Pain Video

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