How to be breast aware: Specialist nurse Lorraine Walker answers your questions
We’ve recently had Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but do we remember to look for the subtle signs that could change our lives?
We talk to breast specialist nurse Lorraine Walker, who is based at Nuffield Health Cambridge Hospital and has close links to UK charity Breast Cancer Now, about her life-enhancing support for women, and men.
What should I look for?
Everyone is different, so start by getting to know your breasts and understanding what is normal for you. It’s not just about finding lumps, but also about changes to the skin texture on your breast. Sometimes they are very subtle changes, such as dimpling. Other symptoms can include a change in the shape or size of your breast, redness or a rash, an inverted nipple, nipple discharge and a swelling or lump in the armpit. Regular checks can save lives and early diagnosis makes a big difference to the outcome, so don’t ever think that it’s not worth getting checked. Always get checked.
What if I find something worrying?
If you’re concerned about any changes, or if you have a family history of breast cancer, then please see your doctor, who may refer you to a hospital breast unit. Patients can also self-refer to the one-stop breast clinics with our consultant breast surgeons, however, a GP referral is also beneficial.
What does the Breast Cancer Care service provide?
We are here to support women and men with a diagnosis of breast cancer, to help empower them by presenting all the options available for treatment so they can make their own considered choices. We have an excellent team of breast cancer experts available to provide psychological support throughout treatment and beyond. Importantly, we work to tailor the individual journey to suit each patient in order to maximise comfort and minimise stress for those who require treatment.
What does a breast specialist nurse do?
My role is to share knowledge and expertise, providing both psychological and clinical care. It is such a shock when breast cancer is diagnosed, life feels surreal and the information can be overwhelming, so it is important that everyone feels safe and supported. This is a balance between nurture and care, a hand-to-hold and someone to make sense of it all and helping patients feel more in control of their situation. I will be by their side through the entire journey, from attending clinic appointments and visiting them on the ward, through chemotherapy, surgery and after treatment care. I am always at the end of the phone to answer any questions and offer the support they need with whatever they may be dealing with at the time.
What happens after treatment?
I can be available to see every patient when treatment has finished, which for many is a crucial time as they often feel that their safety net has gone. We also support families throughout, as the whole experience can be really difficult. Sometimes it’s hard to talk to each other and I can provide a bridge to help alleviate anxieties and offer ongoing support. This really makes a difference and is another vital part of the Breast Cancer Care we offer.
Meet the expert
Lorraine Walker is a breast specialist nurse at Nuffield Health Cambridge Hospital with close links to UK charity Breast Cancer Now, keeping her at the forefront of evidence-based knowledge and current developments.
Having previously trained in the RAF, Lorraine has worked for 17 years in breast care and was an advanced practitioner and breast nurse consultant with the NHS for five years, gaining expertise in breast cancer care and complex treatments. This wealth of experience makes Lorraine a key part of the patient’s journey at Nuffield Health Cambridge Hospital, providing psychological support and leading them through treatment and beyond. Proving her deep passion for supporting cancer care, Lorraine has embarked on treks across the world, raising money for breast cancer charities and continues to plan more expeditions for the future.