New breast unit will bring services together - Guernsey Press article

08/04/2013

The island is to have a brand new breast cancer unit bringing diagnostics, consultation and treatment under one roof. Kay Leslie reports on the new facility and how funds raised by this year's Pink Ladies Sunset Walk will help STANDING in the middle of a building site in the hospital grounds, Karen Leach, lead nurse for cancer and palliative care, is smiling broadly.

‘This is an incredibly exciting project because I know that it will be of real benefit to women who are in a very difficult situation,’ she said, pointing at the work in progress on the old oncology building.

Work is well under way to transform it into a spacious centre for breast cancer diagnostics, consultation and treatment. Karen’s enthusiasm is based on a long working link within the various departments that constitute breast cancer diagnosis and care.

‘We have had separate areas for imaging and consultancy, but this new unit will bring everything together,’ she said. The tangible benefits are that women can be screened and if the result suggests that they need further tests, these can be carried out immediately.

‘That is a massive “plus” when you are facing the possibility that there might be a problem. Waiting even a few days can seem like an eternity and, obviously, clinically it is much better to be able to react as quickly as possible,’ Karen said.
The existing breast unit, situated within the PEH near the A&E department, has nowhere near enough space.

Currently, specialist consultations have to be held in whatever room is available nearby. ‘It is far from ideal, so the chance to bring everything together in what was originally the Guernsey Society for Cancer Relief building is fantastic.’

With space at a premium on the hospital site there was considerable interest in the premises from other departments, so Karen was especially pleased that its use for breast cancer was supported.

‘One of the many positives about this improvement is that the building itself is already here. It is being totally refitted and redesigned, but the external layout remains much the same and the fact that it does not have to be
developed from scratch is a massive bonus.’

The premises will be unrecognisable once the breast cancer support group Pink Ladies have worked with the team to create a welcoming, comfortable and attractive series of rooms. ‘There will even be a quiet room, which I am especially pleased about because when someone is told that they have breast cancer, or perhaps advised of their treatment options, it’s a terrible shock.
‘Having a room in which they can sit on their own for as long as they need is very important.’

The degree of thought that has gone into the design is further evidenced by the fact that women will be able to leave by a separate exit. ‘One of the facts of life in Guernsey is that you inevitably bump into people you know, or at the very least, find that there are quite a few other people in the unit. That can be difficult in the circumstances.’

The new door will allow patients to leave without having to face anyone.
‘It might sound a minor point but it is a real help, because the last thing you want to have to do when you have just been told that you have breast cancer is make polite conversation or have to acknowledge people who obviously have no clue.’

The unit will be clearly defined, with areas for diagnosis and consultation in different ‘arms’, each with their own waiting area. Specialist Stuart Scott will have a consulting room and Winchester-based reconstruction specialist Dick Rainsbury will have a room.
With offices, the mammography equipment, lymphedema nurses and ultrasound room, the new unit will encompass as many aspects as possible.

‘We are also planning to have room for the genetic and family history side so that advice can be given, because that is likely to play an increasing role going forward,’ said Karen.

Breast cancer patients who currently have to go to the Medical Specialist Group for follow-up consultations will also use the unit.
‘In essence, it is going to offer space and flexibility to ensure that we can offer the support and treatment needed as effectively as possible and in an area which is designed to try to alleviate the stress and worry of what
is, let’s face it, a scary time for any woman,’ said Karen.

The Pink Ladies’ Sunset Coastal Walk is on Saturday 22 June. Held every two years, the sponsored walk raised around £92,000 in 2011 and it’s hoped that a similar sum will be raised this year. For more on the walk, go to www.pinkladies.org.gg

Article and picture of Karen Leach courtesy of the Guernsey Press and Star


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