5 minutes with our breast cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist, Elaine Shaw

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so we took 5 minutes with our Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist, Elaine to highlight some of the signs and symptoms women should be aware of and how her role is making a difference to hundreds of patients locally.    

What are some of the common signs and symptoms people should look out for?

The most important thing to look out for are any changes to your breast which are new for you. However, if you notice a lump, an area of thickened skin, a swelling in either armpit, a change in size or shape, dimpling, a rash on or around your nipple, or an inverted nipple, make an appointment to see your GP who can check it out.

How often should women check their breasts?

It’s important that women check their breasts regularly and this can be through attending breast screening if you’re aged 50 – 70, or carrying out self-checks at home. Friends of the Cancer Centre has developed a really useful 7 Step Shower Check hanger, which people can pop in the bathroom as a little reminder to check their breasts every month. It has a step by step guide on how to carry out a self-examination and some things you should look out for. You can get your very own hanger from Friends of the Cancer Centre’s office or online here.

What treatment is available for breast cancer?

Treatment for breast cancer will vary from person to person, but can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer your consultant will discuss the most effective treatment options for you.

As a nurse specialising in breast cancer, how do you support women?

As the only nurse of my kind in Northern Ireland it’s not possible for me to see everyone, but I endeavour to support as many women as I can through their treatment. As a Clinical Nurse Specialist I can also carry out many of the same roles as a doctor, including prescribing chemotherapy and holding my own clinics, which allows more women to be seen more quickly.

How important is Friends of the Cancer Centre to your role?

My post simply wouldn’t be possible without Friends of the Cancer Centre. The charity have been funding my role since 2011 and I am currently the only nurse of my kind in Northern Ireland, so without the charity hundreds of women wouldn’t have the extra support my post can provide.

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