Breast unit

Our state of the art breast unit provides a variety of services to the local population. We have a well-established team of specialists who work within recognised guidelines for the management of breast disorders.

We diagnose and treat over 450 new breast cancers every year. 

Our breast unit is also the designated cancer centre for the people of South Essex and provides the NHS breast screening service for Shoebury, Thorpe Bay, Southend, Westcliff, Leigh, Thundersley, Canvey, Basildon, Stanford, Corringham, Grays, Lakeside, Rochford, Hockley, Rayleigh, Billericay and Wickford. There are three mobile breast screening units for a screening population of approximately 90,000 women. Each woman has to receive an invitation for screening once every three years.

Our team

We have a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, radiotherapists and nurses that meets weekly to discuss the results of investigations and surgery. They follow recognised national guidelines and local protocols to agree possible treatment choices. The results of the multidisciplinary team meetings are discussed with those patients concerned and a plan of action agreed jointly.                               

Oncologists and radiotherapists

After surgery some patients are referred to an oncologist, a doctor who specialises in cancer treatment. The oncologist will discuss with the patient whether additional treatment such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy or radiotherapy should be considered.


After breast surgery the tissue removed is sent to the pathologist who examines the specimen. Based upon their dissection and microscopic examination of the specimen, they are able to determine the tumour grade (how aggressive the cancer appears) and the stage (the size of the tumour and the extent to which it has already spread from the original site). Additionally, the pathologist determines whether the cancer possesses proteins on its cell surfaces which bind to the hormone oestrogen. The information that the pathologist provides - grade, stage and oestrogen receptor status - assists the breast surgeon, oncologist and radiotherapist in choosing the best possible treatment for each patient.

Breast care nurses

Our breast care nurses work full time within the unit and provide holistic care and advice throughout the patient's 'cancer journey'. They are the first point of contact for patients should they have any problems during or after their treatment and are meet all patients at the time of diagnosis. Advice is given on treatments, alternatives and possible side effects and a wide range of information leaflets supplements this.


Our breast unit  is the base for both the symptomatic breast service and the breast screening service. Radiographers who work for these services have undergone a year's postgraduate training specialising in mammography (taking x-rays of the breast). They also train in the specialised areas of assessment mammography, assisting the radiologist in biopsy and pre-operative guide wire locations.

There are 15 radiographers working within our breast unit, some of whom are extending their roles to become advanced practitioners. These radiographers will specialise in reading x-rays and performing breast ultrasound.

Our treatments

We provide chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy for the treatment of breast cancer.


Not all patients need to have chemotherapy.  Your consultant will discuss the various options with you, give you time to ask questions and come to a decision. Information sheets are available about the specific drugs used for chemotherapy, how they are given and possible side effects. Our chemotherapy unit is situated on the ground floor of  the Carlingford Centre, at the rear of the hospital adjacent to the breast unit.

Your consultant will arrange for your first appointment to be sent direct to you. The length of time you need to spend in the unit varies with the type of chemotherapy prescribed, but your first visit will take longer. The chemotherapy nurse will spend extra time with you in private explaining in detail the treatment you will be having, side effects that you might expect and the help available to overcome side effects.  There is plenty of time for questions and discussion and a friend or relative can accompany you. You will be given a selection of contact telephone numbers. If you have any worries or problems help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Whilst having your chemotherapy treatment you will be in a large room sitting in a comfortable armchair, and a friend or relative can stay with you if you wish. The room is warm so it might help to wear layers of clothing; drinks are available. Our chemotherapy nurses will help you with any concerns you have about treatment and side effects. As you leave the unit you will be given an appointment for your next treatment.


Surgery for both symptomatic and screening patients is performed at the hospital by our specialist surgeons and their teams. Day stay and inpatient facilities are available. Dates for surgery are agreed with the patient in the clinic.

A full range of reconstructive surgery is undertaken and  is often performed as a combined procedure with our plastic surgeon. More complex reconstructions are performed at St Andrew's Regional Plastics Unit at Broomfield Hospital.


Radiotherapy can be given before or after surgery, or in combination with chemotherapy. It is a form of treatment using high energy x-rays or electrons and may be recommended for a patient as a course of treatment. These types of radiotherapy do not make you radioactive and you can safely mix with other people, including children, at any time. Your treatment will be planned and administered at the hospital by specially trained teams of radiotherapy radiographers and you will be given instructions, advice, information leaflets and as necessary.  

Contact us

Breast screening reception:   01702 385024

Breast care nurses:                  01702 385025

Symptomatic services:          01702 385319