As the North West Breast Cancer Ball marks its 10th anniversary next week, the team at Letterkenny University Hospital’s Breast Centre have revealed how the proceeds have directly benefitted local women in the past decade.
Money raised at the social fundraiser has been used on internationally-regarded research, improved diagnostics, patient comfort and community care.
Dr. Manvydas Varzgalis, consultant breast cancer surgeon, said contributions have been ‘invaluable’ in improving treatments at the North West Breast Centre.
He is encouraging anyone thinking about supporting the Breast Cancer Ball to go and get the last remaining tickets: “Definitely go to the breast ball, you improve the outcomes for Donegal women. You improve the diagnostic outcomes and, if they develop cancer, you improve the treatment options, especially from a surgical point of view,” he told Donegal Woman.
The special anniversary ball takes place on Friday 29th November in the Silver Tassie Hotel. Over €17,000 was raised at last year’s star-studded event and it is hoped that this year will be as much of a success.
Up to 3,000 patients are seen at the Breast Centre North West each year. Sadly for 100 of those women, an assessment will result in a cancer diagnosis.
The good news is that funding for breast cancer research has significantly reduced mortality rates globally. In Donegal, proceeds from the charity ball pay for research nurses and student fellows, who publish papers each year.
Because of the research funds, Dr. Varzgalis said the surgical outcomes and diagnostics of breast cancer have already improved for patients, while self-audits in the Breast Centre are used to improve the quality of the unit itself.
A recent study looked unnecessary biopsies, Dr Varzgalis said: “Our audit showed that we could select patients who wouldn’t benefit from biopsies and we are trying to implement and improve that in our practice.”
Another direct result of the research is that it has enabled improved surgical planning.
“We are doing more breast-conserving surgery,” Dr Varzgalis said.
“We have learned to remove bigger lumps and still avoid mastectomy, and that involves a lot of surgical planning and special software.”
The advancement means that breast-conserving rates are 72% in Letterkenny, above the international standard of 60-70%.
Breast Centre North West has a good reputation for research, Dr Varzgalis said, which helps to attract skilled doctors.
“You always want to attract good doctors, and it is important that they have the ability to do research projects. If the unit can offer them you have the ability to attract stronger doctors,” Dr Varzgalis said.
The surgeon’s message to women, particularly older women, is to check themselves and ‘be paranoid’.
“I notice elderly patients in their late 70s or 80s are ignoring the symptoms. Although in a patient of that age, the breast cancer is not aggressive but unfortunately it’s picked up at quite late stages,” he said.
“We advise for all patients to examine themselves and be paranoid and if you notice anything go to your GP and they usually refer to the Breast Unit.”
As the Breast Unit team looks forward to benefiting from another Breast Cancer Ball, Dr Varzgalis said they are all very grateful to the organising committee for their hard work.
“Contributions from the breast ball and from Donegal people to the breast unit is invaluable,” he adds.
Tickets are almost sold out for the North West Breast Cancer Ball at the Silver Tassie Hotel Letterkenny – but there is still time to get a ticket.
With adaptive adventurer and cancer survivor Nikki Bradley as special guest, Noel Cunningham as MC and entertainment from the Bentley Boys, it promises to be a moving and enjoyable event. Other special guests will include Dragons’ Den investor Ramona Nicholas and RTÉ presenter Áine Lawlor.
Tickets are 50 euro, and include a sparkling wine reception, a splendid five course meal with wine, dancing to the band, followed by a disco. An exciting auction and raffle will be held thanks to generous sponsorship from the business community in Donegal and further afield.
Tickets are available at the Silver Tassie Hotel by calling 074 91 25619.
Why not make a night of it? Accommodation – B&B is currently available at the special rate of €40 per person sharing at the Silver Tassie, just ring 074 91 25619 to book.
Visit the North West Breast Cancer Charity Ball 2019 Facebook page for more.