The breast health service at the Mater Hospital diagnoses and treats women with breast symptoms. 

The breast health unit at the Mater Hospital was established in 2000. We see approximately 14,000 patients per year and diagnose around 400 breast cancers. Our specially designed facilities allow us to continue our mission to advance the quality of care delivered to women who attend the hospital with breast symptoms.

The unit is staffed by a specialist breast care team that includes:

  • Specialist surgeons
  • Radiologists
  • Specialist mammography radiographers
  • Breast clinical nurse specialists
  • Pathologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Administration staff

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Referral Information

In view of the ongoing Covid-19 emergency, the symptomatic Breast Health Unit at the Mater Hospital will only be seeing patients with symptoms highly suspicious for Breast Cancer or Breast Abscesses at this time. All other breast referrals will be placed on a waiting list. This will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. Thank you for your co-operation at this time.


Tests and procedures


Breast X-rays (mammograms) are important tests in the diagnosis of breast cancer. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray of the breast which can pick up small changes that can’t be felt. Each breast is placed between two special plates and pressure is applied to get the best possible picture. Some women find mammography uncomfortable or even painful. However, it only lasts a few minutes and is not harmful.


This test is painless and takes just a few minutes. Ultrasound uses soundwaves to build up a picture of the inside of the body. It is generally used for women under 35 whose breasts are too dense to give a clear picture with mammography. It is also used to see if a lump is solid or contains fluid (a cyst). Ultrasound is often used with mammography in specialist breast clinics. A special gel is spread onto the breasts and a small device like a microphone, which emits sound waves, is passed over the area. The echoes from the soundwaves are converted into a picture by a computer.

Needle aspiration

This is a quick procedure which is done in the outpatient clinic. Using a fine needle and syringe, the doctor takes a sample of cells from the breast lump and sends it to the laboratory to see if it contains any cancer cells. This technique may also be used to drain a benign (non-cancerous) cyst.

Needle biopsy (core biopsy)

This test is done in the outpatient clinic. A slightly larger needle than the one used for aspiration is used. The doctor numbs the area with a local anaesthetic and then takes a small piece of tissue (biopsy) from the breast  lump. The sample is then sent to the laboratory for examination under a microscope.

Getting your results

You will usually get the results of your mammogram or ultrasound on the day of your test. The results of a core biopsy or fine needle aspiration won’t be available on your first visit, so you will be given an appointment to attend the clinic to get them at a later date.

Staff will process your tests as quickly as possible. Everyone in the clinic is aware that this can be a worrying and stressful time.

Radiation oncology

Radiation Oncology is not available on site at the Mater Hospital’s breast health unit, so if you require radiotherapy for breast cancer, you may be referred to another hospital for this treatment. Radiation oncologists from the Mater Private Hospital and Beaumont Hospital attend all multidisciplinary meetings to discuss patients who may need radiotherapy.


A referral is needed from your GP. Please follow the guidelines above for sending GP referrals.

If you are aged between 50 to 69 years and you have no breast symptoms, please call the national breast screening programme BreastCheck on 1800 45 45 55 to register for a routine mammogram every two years.

If you are outside this age group or if you have a breast symptom, a referral is needed from a GP. Please follow the guidelines above for sending GP referrals

We are currently only accepting family history referrals for patients who have previously attended the Breast Health Unit. If you have never attended the Mater Breast Health Unit and you are concerned about your family history, then your GP can refer you to another of the Breast health units in Dublin, for example, Beaumont Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital or St James’s Hospital.

If you have a query in relation to your outpatient appointment, you can contact our secretarial staff who are available from Monday to Friday, from 9.00am to 12.00pm.

You can contact our secretarial staff by telephone: 01 803 4921 or by email:

Mr Barry Secretary: 

Ms Walsh Secretary:

Prof Kell Secretary: 

Mr Stokes Secretary: 

If you have a query in relation to your mammogram or breast ultrasound appointment, you can contact our radiology secretary who is available from Monday to Friday, from 9.00am to 12.00pm.

You can contact our radiology secretary by telephone on 01 803 2560 or by email:




Accessing the breast health service

Patients are referred to us by their GP or from the national breast screening programme BreastCheck. Our cancer coordinator assesses the referrals and then categorises them as urgent, early or routine, based on the symptoms. Appointment information will be sent to patients by post. The current wait for urgent appointments is 20 working days and the wait for non urgent appointments is 6 – 12 months.

Sending GP referrals from your GP to the breast health unit

We prefer if your GP sends your referral to us electronically via Healthlink. You or your GP can also post your referral to: The Breast Health Unit, 38 Eccles Street, Dublin 7.

Your appointment

If you cannot attend for your appointment

Please contact the breast clinic secretary if you are unable to attend the clinic, so another person can be offered your appointment. The secretary will offer you an alternative appointment if you wish to make one.

What should I bring with me?

If you have had any previous mammograms or X-rays taken of your breast, it is important to arrange to bring these with you. You will need to contact the hospital or clinic where you had these tests carried out and get copies of the files. If you have difficulty in getting your X-ray film, please contact the secretary in the breast clinic in advance of your appointment.

It’s a good idea to bring along something to read, as patients can sometimes spend a long time at the clinic, especially if they need more than one test.

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothes with a separate top and bottoms, as you will need to take your top and your bra off for a physical examination and tests. Avoid wearing talcum powder, deodorant or perfume, as they may interfere with some tests.

Can I bring a relative or friend to the clinic?

Yes. Everyone in the clinic is aware that coming to a breast clinic can be a worrying time. You are welcome to bring a relative or friend for your clinic test and when you return for your results.

We would recommend that you don’t bring children with you to the clinic, for your own comfort and for theirs.  However, if this isn’t possible, we suggest you bring someone along to mind them while you are being seen. There may be areas in the clinic where accompanying persons are not allowed.

What happens when I arrive at the clinic?

When you check in, you will be asked by the receptionist to confirm your personal and contact details. You will meet a doctor, who is a member of the specialist breast team. They will ask you about your symptoms and carry out an examination.

What tests might I have?

After your examination, the doctor may decide you need some tests, such as a mammogram, ultrasound or biopsy. If possible, these tests will be done on the same day as your clinic appointment. A breast clinical nurse specialist is available at the clinic to provide you with information and support.

What is a triple assessment?

Triple assessment means you will be:

  1. Examined by a breast surgeon
  2. Have a mammogram and/or ultrasound 
  3. Have a core biopsy or fine needle aspiration 

Please note that not all patients who attend the breast unit require triple assessment.

Breast clinical nurse specialist 

A breast clinical nurse specialist is available at all breast clinics to provide practical and emotional support to patients attending the clinic. Ask at the clinic if you would like to speak directly with your breast clinical nurse specialist, or feel free to contact them on the numbers in our contact panel.

Useful Links

The Jackson Pratt Drain - Demonstration

A patient information video has been made by the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in Breast Health. This video will help educate Patients post specific Breast Surgery who are discharged home with Drains. This supplements the written education given at the ward level and encourages early discharge. It's particularly helpful to educate families/carers who are not allowed into the hospital due to Covid restrictions and a positive step towards promoting patient care at home (Slaintecare).

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