When Vincetta Johnson’s doctor in her home state of South Carolina uttered the dreaded words, “you have breast cancer,” she didn’t hear any of the other words about her diagnosis that followed. Her world was turned upside-down.
Johnson’s experience is similar to that of thousands of women after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis – shock, followed by worry and fear. Their minds are swimming with the new medical information they need to absorb and the many treatment decisions they need to make. Consequently, Johnson made the decision to seek care at the UCLA Breast Center at Santa Monica.
“When I walked into the Breast Center and was met by my nurse navigator, although I was nervous, I immediately felt at ease because I was able to discuss my treatment options with several doctors who would be responsible for handling different aspects of my care,” Johnson said. “The way my visit was handled and knowing that I was in good hands took away a lot of my apprehensions and fears.”
The new UCLA Breast Center at Santa Monica aims to help breast cancer patients like Johnson more easily navigate through the often complex web of cancer treatment. Affiliated with UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, the Breast Center brings together a world-class team of breast care practitioners under one roof to provide a personalized and streamlined approach for patients. The specialists include a breast surgeon, medical oncologist, reconstructive surgeon, radiation oncologist, genetics counselor, and psychosocial counselor.
“We have a core team of physicians from major specialties here, so in one visit patients are seen and evaluated by the entire expert care team,” said Nova Foster, M.D., surgical director of the Breast Center and associate clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Our experience treating breast cancer patients has shown we can streamline their treatment planning and relieve much of their stress to make their experience less challenging.”
During a patient’s first visit to the Breast Center, they are greeted by a nurse navigator who explains the process, answers their questions and serves as the patient’s primary point of contact throughout their treatment.
“Our expert nurse navigator serves as a personal facilitator during interactions with the UCLA Health System by guiding them through the complexities of diagnosis, treatment and follow-up,” Dr. Foster said.
Combining state-of-the-art diagnostic tools with proven clinical treatment approaches and compassionate care, the expert care team of the Breast Center is able to develop a personalized plan of care for the patient. This approach improves the quality of care and lessens anxiety for the patient. In addition, progress is being made in the development of personalized genomic medicine as a research program to augment personalized care.
Upon an initial diagnosis of cancer in both breasts, Johnson’s treatment regimen included a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. “The entire experience I had with the Breast Center team was fantastic; my appointments and visits were very well coordinated and it all ran smoothly,” Johnson said.
“A support system is so important for someone to have when they’re battling cancer,” she continued. “The team at the Breast Center answered all my questions and was so comforting to me, I can’t say enough about them!”
In addition to Dr. Foster, the UCLA Breast Center at Santa Monica leadership team includes Dr. Nicole Dawson, Pathology; Dr. Sara Hurvitz, Medical Oncology; Dr. Anne Hoyt, Radiology; Dr. Susan McCloskey, Radiation Oncology; Dr. Charles Tseng, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery; and nurse navigator Vicky Padilla.
For more information about the new UCLA Breast Center at Santa Monica, call 424.259.8791 or visit www.uclahealth.org.