Breast cancer care

Primary or early breast cancer is when cancer cells develop within the breast and may or may not have spread to underarm lymph nodes but has not spread to any other organs or bones.

The aim of treatment is curative and some treatments may also be given to reduce the risk of the cancer returning in the future.

Secondary breast cancer is when a cancer which originated in the breast has spread to other organs or bone.

Diagnostic and treatment clinics are run at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Whipps Cross Hospital and Newham Hospital.

Further information about primary and secondary breast cancer can be found via the Macmillan and Breast Cancer Now websites.

Your investigations

Breast cancer is diagnosed by performing a number of investigations which usually include undergoing a clinical examination and imaging such as mammogram and ultrasound.

Alongside this a tissue sample, called a biopsy, may then be taken to be analysed in the laboratory.

You may also have a CT (Computerised Tomography) scan and a bone scan. These scans look at the rest of the body.

The results of the tests may take a few weeks to come back and can be a very anxious time for you, your family and friends.

You will be given the contact number for a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) who will support throughout your treatment.

You can also contact Macmillan and Breast Cancer Now for additional support and advice.

Your treatment options

Our breast service has a weekly multidisciplinary meeting when a group of health professionals with expert knowledge of breast cancer meet to discuss the best treatment pathway for each case.

The results of this meeting will then be given to you by your doctor in a clinic. Any treatment will be fully explained and will only proceed with your consent.

If you have any questions following your appointment you can contact the clinical nurse specialist for more information.

Breast cancer treatments are planned on an individual basis and can include:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer.
  • Radiotherapy  
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapies such as hormonal therapy or monoclonal antibodies such as Herceptin.

You can visit the Breast Cancer Now and Macmillan websites for more information on breast cancer and how it is treated.

Your appointments

You will meet a specialist to talk about the plan for treatment, potential side effects and how these may affect you.

It is a good idea to bring a family member or friend with you for support and to ask questions on your behalf.

If you require transport this can be arranged. There is also assistance with costs of transport. Please speak to your clinical nurse specialist or the Macmillan information centre about this.


Relatives are welcome to join you at your hospital appointments.

If you are having surgery and need to stay overnight, family members are able to visit but not able to stay.

Your care team

The breast cancer team at Barts Health includes:

Consultant breast surgeon

A doctor specifically trained for the surgical treatment of breast cancer.

Consultant medical oncologist

A doctor trained in the medical management of breast cancer, such as chemotherapy.

Consultant plastic surgeon

A specialist surgeon who focuses on the reconstruction element of surgery.

Consultant clinical oncologist

A doctor trained in the use of radiation as a treatment for breast cancer.

Consultant radiologist

A doctor who interprets x-rays and scans.

Consultant pathologist

A doctor who looks at tissue samples under the microscope to see if any abnormal cells are present.

Breast clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

An experienced cancer nurse who will be able to answer any questions you have and give you support throughout your treatment.