Breast pain, although common in women of all ages, can cause a lot of anxiety.
The question ‘do I have cancer?’ is often put to GPs by patients who are experiencing breast pain.
While these patients might be reassured by the fact that breast pain alone is not a symptom of breast cancer, GPs nevertheless often refer people with breast pain only for an urgent appointment (a two-week wait referral) to rule out cancer.
The wait for a scan to detect or rule out cancer can be an anxious one and, in the case of patients with breast pain symptoms only, the underlying problem remains undiagnosed even when cancer is ruled out.
Up to a fifth (12%-20%) of two-week wait breast referrals are for patients with breast pain and no other symptoms.
The Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance has worked with partners to develop clinics to help people experiencing breast pain but no other symptoms in North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and York.
The breast pain clinics offer examination, specialist guidance and support to patients who are referred by their GP. Patients with cases of breast cancer in their family can understandably become anxious when they experience breast pain, so their family history is reviewed and they can be referred to specialist services if they are considered to be at moderate or high risk.
The clinics are led by Advanced Nurse Practitioners and provide a bespoke service for women who are experiencing breast pain and have not found a solution via advice, support, and treatment in primary care.
This ensures that breast pain symptom-only patients get help they need to manage their condition, and this frees up two-week wait referrals for people who really need them. Any patient found to have suspicious symptoms will be urgently referred for a further assessment.
The York and North Yorkshire clinic, based in Malton, started treating patients on 20th June and the North Lincolnshire clinic in Scunthorpe and the North East Lincolnshire clinic in Grimsby opened its doors on 4th July.
More than 50 patients were seen at the first few clinics and I’m pleased to report that none of these people required an urgent two-week wait referral for suspected cancer.
GPs and other primary care colleagues were invited to a webinar to find out more about the breast pain clinics on Tuesday, 19th July – the day in which much of Britain sweltered in record-breaking temperatures.
Despite the heat, many GPs attended the webinar after their practice hours so I would like to thank them for their attendance. The webinar can be viewed here.
For more information about the breast pain clinics, visit the Cancer Alliance website.