Breast cancer

The world-class Breast Service at the Women's is part of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) Breast Tumour Stream working alongside specialist teams at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. 

Services of the Breast Tumour Stream include diagnosis and management of breast cancer and pre-cancerous diseases through to surgery, reconstruction and medical and radiation oncology.

At the Women’s, we focus on the initial assessment and diagnosis, breast and reconstructive surgery, and supportive care of women through their breast cancer journey.

Health issues treated

Breast cancer and benign breast conditions

What we do

Most women attending the Breast Service for their first consultation will be seen by a breast cancer specialist for a clinical examination and discussion that will help to determine the possible need for any further testing. This may involve breast imaging such as a mammogram or ultrasound, or occasionally a breast MRI. These tests will usually require a separate visit to the hospital. The information obtained from these investigations will help to determine if any further treatment is required. Our tests and procedures are not dangerous and are usually not painful. We will provide you with written information to help you understand your particular condition and all of the procedures.

Information for patients

The Breast Service team

Our Breast Service team comprises specialist breast surgeons, plastic surgeons, junior doctors and breast care nurse at the Women’s, together with medical oncologists and radiation oncologists at the Peter MacCallum and Royal Melbourne Hospital.

These clinicians work together as a multidisciplinary team to assist in the recommendations and treatment of women with both breast cancer and benign breast conditions.

The role of the breast care nurse

The breast care nurses are available Monday to Friday to assist with any queries women may have about their care. The breast care nurses coordinate a patient’s care in the breast clinic, are available to answer any questions, provide emotional and practical support and advocate for women within multidisciplinary forums.

Breast imaging and breast biopsy

When necessary, a breast biopsy (the removal of a tiny piece of breast tissue for testing) might also be ordered. It is generally not possible to arrange any breast imaging or biopsies on the same day as your first breast clinic appointment, although we do try to achieve this when necessary.

If you are having a breast biopsy, we recommend that you:

  • Wear a supportive bra with no underwire to your appointment.
  • Do not do any heavy lifting for two days (48 hours) after the biopsy.

You will be given a local anaesthetic before having a breast biopsy. This might be uncomfortable and can cause some bruising. The biopsy area will be covered with a waterproof dressing which you should leave on for two days (48 hours). Most women are able to drive after this procedure, however, it would be best to bring someone who can drive you home in case you are not feeling well.

Test results

Results are given at another breast clinic appointment within one to two weeks of any breast biopsy or breast imaging.

Breast surgery

Women requiring breast surgery will be put on a waiting list and will receive a letter or phone call confirming your operation time and any instructions. Surgery for breast cancer is almost always scheduled within 30 days, while surgery for benign conditions is usually done within three months. Women having surgery for a breast cancer are invited to meet with the breast care nurse prior to surgery.

Combined Service between the Women’s, VCCC, Peter MacCallum and the Royal Melbourne Hospital

Occasionally you may have to attend more than one hospital during your care to enable you to receive an appointment sooner or to access a service that is only available at one site.


Your doctor/GP or community women’s health nurse will need to fax a referral to the Women’s before you can come to this clinic

What to bring

  • any X-ray films and reports of any mammograms, breast ultrasounds or any other tests
  • your Medicare card
  • your Health Care card (if you have one)
  • a list of current medications, including any that you have bought without a prescription

Follow-up breast cancer care

The Combined Breast Service of The Royal Women's Hospital and The Royal Melbourne Hospital has introduced a new model of care for women with early breast cancer.

In order to improve ongoing care, and support you after your treatment for early breast cancer, the Breast Service provides:

  • an additional appointment with the breast care nurse at the end of your hospital treatment
  • the development of a follow-up care plan for you and your general practitioner (GP) to address any ongoing issues
  • shared follow-up care with your GP and the Breast Service so that you don’t have to come back into the hospital for all of your appointments
  • access to rapid referrals back to the Breast Service through your GP if you have any concerns.
Consultation and follow-up care plan

Upon completion of your hospital treatment for breast cancer, the additional appointment with the breast care nurse addresses any ongoing issues and concerns that you may have. After the appointment, a follow-up care plan will be developed. The care plan includes a health and wellbeing management plan and a recommended schedule for follow-up visits with your GP and the Breast Service – partners in your ongoing care.

Follow-Up Care

Following your appointment with the breast care nurse, the hospital and your chosen GP will share your follow-up care for the next five years. Shared breast cancer follow-up means that you can see the same GP during this time with around one hospital visit per year.

Any ongoing issues that you may have will be addressed by the Breast Service, working in partnership with your GP to improve your holistic care and wellbeing.