Dr Michael Reilly says that’s just as important for the women who are being told they don’t have cancer as the ones who are told they do.
“After attending the clinic we can give a woman a diagnosis of cancer but the vast majority of women are told they don’t have cancer,” he said.
“One of the big problems that we had historically is women complaining about not knowing - they would come to a clinic but would be left in a kind of limbo state.
“Now we can get the result early. And although a cancer diagnosis can be a shock, it gets women on the road to coming to terms with the fact that they have cancer.”
Dr Reilly, who has worked in this field for 25 years, explained that his job in the assessment clinic involves reading mammograms, directing x-ray investigations, doing biopsies and consulting with other professionals working in the clinic, including the breast cancer nurses, who he says are an integral part of the team.
Describing the breast screening programme, which offers all women aged between 50 and 70 an appointment every three years, as “life saving,” he added: “It has been proved that the earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome.
“If we can diagnose cancer before it becomes a lump then the outcome is better.”
Normally women who have been called to the clinic following a screening appointment are seen on a Monday.
“Before they come in we will have looked at the mammogram,” said Dr Reilly. “We will look at the mammogram again and discuss what pictures we want done. In most cases we will order an ultrasound, and if needed a biopsy can be done there and then.
“The women will have their answer that day and if needed can see the surgeon. The primary treatment for breast cancer is surgery.”
Dr. Reilly describes his job as a “difficult one.”
“But it’s one in which you are aware you can make a significant difference. If you diagnose a woman’s cancer early on, you can cure her in a lot of cases,” he said.
“Breast cancer survival rates continue to rise and a lot of that is on the back of breast screening.
“But it’s still important to go along early if you have any symptoms and get checked.”
At a recent meeting of the Western Trust it was revealed how the breast care clinics at Altnagelvin Hospital continue to meet waiting time figures each month with all patients seen within the scheduled time frame. Chief executive Elaine Way also revealed how extra clinics have been put on to ensure that women do not have to wait longer to be seen.