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What is a Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Across our centres, we have a team of experts that specialise in breast cancer. Our specialists consist of Consultant Breast Surgeons, Consultant Clinical Oncologists and Breast Clinical Nurse Specialists, all playing an important role in the cancer care and treatment of our patients.

In today's blog post, we're going to take a closer look at the role of a Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist (also known as a CNS). When a patient comes to one of the Rutherford Cancer Centres for breast cancer treatment or a clinical assessment (such as a triple assessment), Breast Clinical Nurse Specialists will provide them with holistic care, emotional support and coordinate care services to support a positive outcome for their cancer journey. Meet Joanne Maughan, a breast clinical nurse at our North East Centre, who shares with us what it means to support breast cancer patients and why she is inspired by them every day.

Why did you decide to become a Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist? 

I've been a Macmillan clinical nurse specialist in breast cancer for the last five years - and I love my job. I wanted a career that I was passionate about, that was interesting and would make a difference in the lives of others. Patient care is my priority. The role entails providing holistic care and emotional support, coordinating care services and advising patients on clinical and practical issues - all of which, hopefully, leads to positive patient outcomes. I have specific skills and specialised knowledge in breast cancer care and the understanding and the expertise to support the management of the outcome of my patient’s cancer treatment. 

Joanne M - breast clinic nurse

Joanne Maughan - Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist

What is your role at the breast clinic? 

I'm committed to high quality and compassionate care. An important part of my job is to identify and meet the needs of my patients on their personal and specific cancer journey and by being effective in coordinating and supporting patients along the cancer pathway from pre-diagnosis, through to survivorship alongside the multi-disciplinary team. I'm also part of the multi-disciplinary care team and communicate between different members of the wider team whilst being an advocate for the patient. 


What is the best part about being a Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist? 

The most rewarding part about being a Breast Clinical Nurse Specialist is, my patients, inspire me every day and I form a unique relationship with them and their families. I enjoy caring for my patients and the trust that develops with relationships is a pleasure and a privilege. I appreciate that every patient is different and no one day is the same. To be able to comfort patients whether their needs are physical, emotional or mental – I share their most intimate moments and treat them with dignity and empathy. I find my job very gratifying and rewarding but at times, it is (understandably) challenging. 

What should patients expect on the day? 

When attending the Rutherford Breast Clinic, every patient will have all the time they need and will be supported, well informed and reassured by a breast care nurse at every step. Patients will attend what is called a triple assessment which comprises clinical assessment, imaging assessment and if needed, a needle biopsy. 

Patients will meet a consultant oncoplastic surgeon, a clinical nurse specialist in breast care and the patient will have a clinical assessment to determine the patients’ symptoms, relevant history and a physical examination. 

Following this, the patient will go for imaging in the form of a mammogram and a targeted ultrasound of their breast and axilla (armpit). At this point, it will be decided if a biopsy (sample of tissue) is required in which case local anaesthetic will be administered and a biopsy will be taken. 

The biopsy will then be sent to the laboratory to be examined under the microscope and the results will be discussed in our team meeting. Following that team meeting, the patient will be informed of the results and informed of what if anything needs to be done.

At all times, the patient will be involved/advised about the steps we are taking, what is happening, and everything clearly explained to them at every point during the process.

Find out more

If you'd like to find out more about the Rutherford Breast Clinic at our North East centre, please contact the team at the Rutherford Cancer Centres, or visit our Rutherford Breast Clinic North East page.

The answers in this blog post were provided by Joanne Maughan, Breast Clinical Nurse at our North East Centre.

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