A BREAST cancer diagnosis is heart-wrenching for patients and their families.

But now there is treatment closer to home, with Bass Coast Health (BCH) offering breast cancer surgery at Wonthaggi Hospital, with general surgeon Dr Sarah Birks from Alfred Health consulting and operating.

“Whilst we commenced these surgeries in June, last week saw us introduce yet another type of surgical procedure, utilising Sentimag technology, at the Wonthaggi Hospital theatres,” Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child said on Thursday.

“This surgery required significant planning from the surgical team and was successfully undertaken by Dr Birks, paving the way for these procedures to be accessed by many patients in future.”

For breast cancer patients, surgery to remove the tumour – either by lumpectomy or mastectomy – is usually the first step in treatment.

Sentimag technology is used to achieve effective and complete excision of breast tumours during breast conserving surgery. This technology means that locals don’t have to travel to have invasive procedures prior to their operation, as a small seed known as a Magseed, that assists with locating the tumour, can be inserted by radiology at any time prior to surgery at BCH.

The ‘Magtrace’, which assists with locating the lymph nodes, is also inserted in the doctor’s office up to 30 days prior to surgery. This state-of-the-art technology results in:

* Reduced travel time and costs for patients.

* Reduced total hospital admission time for the patients.

* Increased accuracy in localising lesions during surgery, and potentially reduction in the amount of tissue excised when removing the lesion, and easier placement of the incision to minimise cosmetic trauma to the breast.

* Decreased pain and anxiety associated with undergoing a hookwire insertion for the patient.

* Reduction of complex radiology and theatre booking times.

Dr Birks offers procedures including lumpectomy and mastectomy using the Sentimag technology at Wonthaggi, as well as surgical consultations, every four weeks.

Specialising in breast surgery, Dr Birks is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and has undertaken several years of post-fellowship specialty training in breast cancer surgery, including completion of the BreastSurgANZ Post Fellowship Training Program. Sarah also offers surgery for thyroid and parathyroid disease.

“We are achieving better and better long-term outcomes for breast cancer patients, and whilst the priority is always to perform safe cancer surgery, I also think it is important to focus on achieving an appearance that women will be comfortable with for a long time.”

To make an appointment, patients will require a referral from a medical practitioner.

Appointments can be made by calling BCH’s Intake Clerk on 5971 3175. Referrals can be faxed to 5671 4296.