Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance is working with its partners to pilot new primary care Breast Pain Clinics, following an increase in the number of two-week wait referrals for suspected breast cancer

Dr Dan Cottingham, CRUK Primary Care GP Lead at Humber, Coast and Vale (HCV) Cancer Alliance

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and, as we continue to work with our partners to highlight the early signs of cancer through our Cancer Champion programme and other initiatives such as the NHS Help Us Help You campaign, we are pleased to have seen the number of urgent breast cancer referrals rise since the start of the pandemic.

Whilst a 33% increase in the number of urgent breast cancer referrals between April and July 2021, compared to the same period during 2019/20, is helping to support our overarching ambition of catching more cancers early, on average, 94.3% of GP referred suspected breast cancer patients do not receive a cancer diagnosis. The increase in referrals is putting additional pressure on Trusts that are already working extremely hard to diagnose or rule out cancer for patients across Humber, Coast and Vale.

To help secondary care safely manage NHS waiting lists for existing breast services, the Alliance is working with its partners to pilot new breast pain clinics that will provide an alternative service for people experiencing breast pain and no other concerning symptoms.

Although breast pain on its own is not a symptom of breast cancer, GPs often refer patients with breast pain on a two week wait pathway to help provide reassurance and rule out cancer quickly.

The introduction of breast pain clinics across the Humber, Coast and Vale region will help to decrease the number of patients on a two week wait pathway and improve patient experience by reducing the need for invasive tests and enabling more timely access for others.

Breast pain clinics will be held in the community and run by experienced Breast Cancer Advanced Nurse Practitioners. Any patients who, on examination at the clinic, are found to have other symptoms which may indicate cancer, they will be fast-tracked for assessment in secondary care.

Other parts of the country have already seen great success with the clinics; Mid-Nottinghamshire ICS recently launched its Breast Pain Clinics and 100% of its patients said they were either ‘likely’ or ‘extremely likely’ to recommend the service. Many patients have received reassurance that their breast pain is not due to cancer, as the clinic has diagnosed no instances of cancer so far, and we hope to offer patients across HCV the same reassurance as breast pain clinics are implemented from early 2022.

Lynne Dawson

Author Lynne Dawson

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