A new diagnosis of breast cancer is often paired with difficult sensations, emotions and responses including fear, shock, numbness and disbelief, as well as anger, betrayal, grief and sadness. In the midst of this emotional trauma, women must gather information, often learn a new language of medical terms, understand treatment choices and make difficult decisions. Women often report being overwhelmed or at least intensely challenged to make sense of the medical maze.
Three specialty areas of central importance in the treatment of breast cancer include: surgical oncology, medical oncology and radiation oncology. Not everyone is treated with all of these modalities, but each is weighed for the benefits offered and for the potential risks incurred.
Each of these areas can be thought of as the treatment building blocks – they may be given in different orders, over differing amounts of time, all depending on the stage and biological behavior of the breast cancer and the individual references of the women diagnosed with disease. A combination of treatment strategies from the three key breast cancer modalities is often the best method to achieve both local and systemic control of breast cancer.
The treatments are accompanied by a range of emotions, possible side effects and potential variability in response to treatment. While none of these treatments is easy to undergo, many women weather breast cancer treatments with support.
The Breast Care Center offers coordinated care for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients by specialists from each of these areas in one patient-oriented facility. At the Breast Care Center, these specialists work together to coordinate the most appropriate care for each individual. These specialists include, but are not limited to, surgical oncologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists.
A breast cancer surgeon is a doctor with specialty surgical training and experience in diseases of the breast, including breast cancer. The surgeon has expertise in clinical breast exam, biopsy and breast surgery for benign breast diseases and breast cancer.
The surgeon works collaboratively with physicians in mammography and radiology, nuclear medicine, and pathology to plan and do diagnostic procedures. They work collaboratively with physicians in radiation and medical oncology to plan breast cancer treatment once it has been diagnosed. The breast surgeon does breast surgery, either alone or in collaboration with a plastic surgeon.
A medical oncologist is an internist with a specialty residency (and often fellowship) in medical oncology. Medical oncology is the study of and use of systemic therapies, or treatments, that treat the entire body. It includes the use of chemotherapy (drugs to treat cancer) and hormone therapy (drugs that interfere with the body's hormonal stimulation of tumor growth).
Chemotherapy may be given for primary breast cancer – cancer believed not to have spread outside of the breast and lymph nodes either before or after surgery. Chemotherapy may also be used as treatment for metastatic breast cancer – breast cancer that has spread to other organs of the body.
Hormonal therapy, such as Tamoxifen or Nolvadex, can be given for primary or metastatic breast cancer. A medical oncologist has expertise in managing these treatments and treatment side effects and problems encountered with breast cancer over the course of the illness.
A radiation oncologist is a physician who completes a residency in the treatment of cancer with radiation therapy – the use of radiation particles in a controlled way to treat cancer.
Radiation therapy may be used in the local treatment of primary breast cancer, most often following breast-conserving surgery – lumpectomy – or as a method to control metastatic disease and alleviate symptoms. For example, radiation of the spine in the setting of bone metastasis may stop or slow growth of disease, preventing damage to the spinal cord and decreasing pain.
- Breast Cancer Decision Services
- Patient and Family Cancer Support Center
- Consultations, such as with a nutritionist or psychiatrist
- Art for Recovery
- Complementary Medicine
- Friend to Friend Gift Shop
We at the UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center hope to provide you with information and support that will enable you to experiment and to explore ways of feeling better that best match you and your needs.
Below, you will find links to some of the educational information that is applicable to women with newly diagnosed breast cancer. In addition, further information can be gathered at our UCSF Patient and Family Cancer Support Center or by talking with your doctor.
- Basic Breast Anatomy
- Breast Cancer Biology
- Diagnostic Imaging:
- Magnetic Resonance Imagery
- Treatment Options:
- Surgical Procedures
- Radiation therapy
- Hormonal Therapy
Clinical trials are formal, controlled protocols designed to test the effectiveness of new treatments, including novel drugs, types of intervention or combinations of therapy.
If you are interested in obtaining more information on specific breast cancer clinical trials offered at UCSF Medical Center, please visit the clinical trial section on the UCSF Breast Care Center website. You also can visit the National Cancer Institute's CancerNet, where you will find access to PDQ, the NCI-sponsored database of clinical trials nationwide.
Note: The clinical protocols listed here are presented as an educational service to doctors and patients; they should not be interpreted as providing medical advice nor be used for the diagnosis or treatment of cancer or any other health problem. Enrollment is based on satisfying eligibility criteria; final determination for inclusion in a study is made solely at the discretion of the principal investigator.
Diagram for Those Newly Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
Different services and information are needed at different points in the wide spectrum of breast health care and breast cancer treatment. We have created a map to serve as an example of a general path of diagnoses and/or treatment in order to help you to better understand your own individual experience.
While there are common pathways to screening, diagnosis and treatment within breast care and breast cancer, you must be aware that your individual path may differ from that presented on our website. It is important to discuss the details of your individual story with your doctor.
Navigating Your Path to Breast Care:
- Navigating Your Path to Breast Care: I am Concerned About Breast Cancer
- Navigating Your Path to Breast Care: I Have a Lump or Abnormal Mammogram
- Navigating Your Path to Breast Care: I Am Newly Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
- Navigating Your Path to Breast Care: I Have Metastatic Breast Cancer
- Navigating Your Path to Breast Care: I Am in Follow-Up
- Navigating Your Path to Breast Care: I Would Like a Second Opinion
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
Basic Facts About Breast Health
Learn basic facts about breast structure and function and how to differentiate between the different types and stages of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Glossary
Check out our comprehensive Glossary of Breast Cancer terminology, which includes definitions of everything from AC chemotherapy to peripheral neuropathy.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Click now to find a summary of the factors that increase risk for developing breast cancer, including both factors that we cannot change and those we can.
Self-Care and Recovery
Self-Care and recovery resources including an Introduction to Lifestyle Change, Nutrition and Breast Cancer, Hydration: Water and Health, Meditation and more.
Breast reconstruction, surgery to rebuild a breast's shape, is often an option after mastectomy and is covered by some health insurance plans. Learn more now.
Follow-Up Care for Breast Cancer Patients
After patients have completed treatment for early stage breast cancer, one of the common questions is, "How should I best be monitored?" Learn more here.
Mastectomy: Instructions Before Surgery
The following information will help you prepare for your upcoming Mastectomy surgery. If you have any questions, please contact the Breast Care Center staff.
Mastectomy: Instructions After Surgery
Post Mastectomy surgery instructions including, pain management, incision and dressing care, activity, diet, follow-up care and more.
Menopause and Breast Cancer
Breast cancer treatment often causes women to enter menopause prematurely. Although each woman reacts to therapy individually, certain side effects are common.
Metastatic Breast Cancer: Diagnosis and Treatment
Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that originated in the breast and has spread to other organ systems in the body. Learn more here.
Osteoporosis and Breast Cancer
Women who have had breast cancer or are considered at high risk for developing breast cancer are at risk for developing osteoporosis. Learn more.
Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
The UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center and the Department of Radiation Oncology have compiled information about radiation therapy for your convenience.
Knowledge may lead you to take action to protect your health and that of other women you care about: your mother, daughters, relatives and friends. Learn more.
Breast Care Center in Marin
1100 S. Eliseo Dr., Suite 1
Greenbrae, CA 94904
Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center
Bakar Precision Cancer Medicine Building
1825 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158