A Team Effort Helps Breast Cancer Patient Celebrate a Night at the Opera

Caroline Hurtado, radiation therapist; Annie Noonan; Al Taira, M.D., radiation oncologist

Caroline Hurtado, radiation therapist; Annie Noonan; Al Taira, M.D., radiation oncologist

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are sharing one patient’s story of celebration during her fight against breast cancer.

Long before her breast cancer diagnosis, Annie Noonan and her husband had been invited to attend the opening night of the San Francisco Opera. She had never been to opening night and had been looking forward to it before the diagnosis.

Annie’s treatment at Mills-Peninsula’s Dorothy E. Schneider Cancer Center in San Mateo included a type of targeted radiation therapy called intracavitary brachytherapy, in which a device to deliver a high dose of radiation is inserted into the breast and left in place for the duration of the treatment. The device is attached to one end of a tube, and the other end of the tube sticks out of the skin with several protruding wires.

Annie chose this type of radiation for its short duration — twice a day for five days — so she could quickly return to her family and her busy professional life as president and co-founder of The Avalon Academy, a local school for children with cerebral palsy. Read More

3D Mammography Gives a Closer Look


It had been about 18 months since Susan Gray, a busy attorney in San Francisco, had her last mammogram. She knew the recommendation; starting at age 40, women should be screened annually for breast cancer. As it turned out, Gray’s visit to the Mills-Peninsula Women’s Center in May 2014 came at just the right time.

Susan Gray

Susan Gray

Using the newly installed digital breast tomosynthesis technology, also known as 3D mammography, Harriet Borofsky, M.D., medical director of the Mills-Peninsula Women’s Center, found an aggressive breast tumor that would likely have gone undetected with traditional mammography. Read More

Genetic Screening for Inherited Cancer


What if you knew you would get cancer and the exact type of cancer you would get? For some people, that knowledge can be gained through genetic testing for cancer, allowing them to take steps to prevent the cancer, or at least catch it early.

This type of testing looks for mutations in the genes a person was born with – mutations that researchers now know put a person at high risk of developing certain types of cancer. Often people with these mutated genes have relatives who have developed cancer younger than expected. Read More

3D Mammography: Fighting Breast Cancer with New Tools

Harriet Borofsky, M.D., medical director of the Mills-Peninsula Women's Center, reviews mammograms using  3D mammography, also called tomosynthesis.

Harriet Borofsky, M.D., medical director of the Mills-Peninsula Women’s Center, reviews mammograms using 3D mammography technology, also called tomosynthesis.

Every year more than 200,000 American women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Women whose cancer is detected early by mammogram are less likely to die of the disease. Studies indicate there are 30 to 40 percent fewer deaths among women screened with mammography. But traditional mammograms can’t detect all tumors, and some are hidden behind overlapping breast tissue. 3D mammography is changing that. Read More

Reduce Cancer Risk: Change Your Diet


Researchers estimate that one-third of cancer deaths are due to diet and lack of physical activity – nearly as many as caused by tobacco. In fact, for Americans who don’t smoke, eating the right foods and getting exercise are the most important things they can do to prevent cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Studies have shown numerous connections between food and certain cancers. High-fat dairy is associated with prostate cancer. Red meat and processed meats are linked to colon and rectal cancer. Alcohol directly causes cancers of the mouth, throat and liver, and it raises a woman’s risk for breast cancer.

So you might ask: If certain foods help cause cancer, can changing your diet lower your cancer risk? Absolutely, says Jennifer Brown, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula oncologist. While your genetics and environment also influence your cancer risk, your diet is a key factor you can control.

Want to reduce your cancer risk? Follow these recommendations from Dr. Brown and Debbie Kurzrock, R.D., a Mills-Peninsula registered dietitian who works in Radiation Oncology at the Dorothy E. Schneider Cancer Center in San Mateo.

Read More

Sharing Breast Cancer Advances with India

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, throughout October we’ll be posting a series of stories about breast cancer prevention, treatment and survivors.

Mamatha Chivukula, M.D., is a breast cancer pathologist at Mills-Peninsula Health Services, located in one of the most medically sophisticated regions of one of the most medically advanced nations in the world.

She knows that testing the molecular structure of a tumor can save some women from unnecessary chemotherapy. She knows that some women with high-risk lesions can prevent breast cancer from ever developing if they take tamoxifen preventatively.

Yet she also knows that most women with breast cancer in her home country, India, will die from breast cancer, because the advances we take for granted in the U.S. aren’t widely available there.

Read More