We have talked to
Prof. Dr. Christian Singer
Outpatient Clinic and Head of Laboratory; Head of the Centre for Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer
What is a breast health centre?
A breast health centre is an interdisciplinary organisation of different medical departments dedicated to the treatment of breast carcinoma. Breast health centres are very well organised with clear responsibilities and interfaces.
However, the term breast health centre is not a protected term. There is, however, a certification that ensures that the quality of care and the comprehensive range of services are available. Certified breast health centres always offer their patients the best possible care, everything is always up to date, patients have access to clinical studies, there are Breast Care Nurses and much more.
There are 28 of these certified Breast Health Centres in Austria.
How long are patients treated there?
The treatment starts with the diagnosis, i.e. from the moment the patient is identified at an established radiological institute, and ends with the cured patient in follow-up care. If the patient has been diagnosed as metastatic, she will be medically followed for the entire duration of the metastatic stage in the Breast Health Centre.
So it is actually a lifelong process in which patients have a contact person whenever necessary and as far as necessary.
In follow-up care, we like to see the patients once a year. The quarterly or half-yearly examinations are carried out by doctors in private practices.
Do patients return to their referring doctors during the course of treatment or only after treatment is completed?
It is always a question of how well you get along with the doctor, the chemistry has to be right. In principle, at the Breast Health Centre, a whole team knows the case. They know the patient’s entire history, for example, how long therapies were given, how well they were tolerated, whether adjustments are or were necessary, the nature of the tumour at the beginning of the disease, developments and much more. Those are all reasons why it is smart to stay.
Some patients go to many different doctors, which leads to many different opinions, because the new doctors don’t know the whole story. In addition, the patients are usually unhappy because they have to go through everything again and again. In my opinion, this only makes them feel insecure. But of course there are situations where the chemistry is not right and then you have to change doctors.
How do patients get to the Breast Health Centre?
Either the radiologist refers the patient to the nearest Breast Health Centre or the patient chooses one and is referred. Radiological institutes often have lists of breast health centres.
Sometimes the gynaecologist also refers the patient.
We, on the part of the Breast Health Centres, maintain communication with the referring doctors through regular referral events during which we evaluate which improvements or changes are desired and make sense.
Breast Health Centres also hold patient events. Before Covid, we used to do this once a year.