Little Company of Mary Breast Cancer Program
Little Company of Mary Breast Cancer Program
Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Centers provide top quality breast cancer care, prevention, detection, education and support services in partnership with City of Hope.
We make sure to provide each patient and their loved ones with individualized and compassionate cancer care. Patients can be assured they are receiving exceptional medical care for the whole person — physical, emotional and spiritual.
- The same comprehensive, cutting edge services offered by major academic centers, provided in the community hospital you know and trust
- A team of specialists in every aspect of breast care who collaborate across multiple locations to provide convenient, connected care close to your home or work
- World-class treatment options, including the latest clinical trials
- Personal support, beyond treating the disease, that eases the ripple effects on your emotions and your life
Every woman is at risk for breast cancer. One in eight will develop the disease, and 85% of those who are diagnosed have no family history of breast cancer. This is why Providence Little Company of Mary encourages every woman to talk to her doctor, beginning at age 40, about when to start breast cancer screening through regular mammograms.
Early detection is the best defense against breast cancer. When breast cancer is found early, before it has spread beyond the breast, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%.
Regular screening can help detect breast cancer before you might notice any symptoms. Providence offers these lifesaving screenings in multiple locations throughout Southern California. Using the advanced imaging and diagnostic technologies listed below, Providence’s dedicated breast radiologists are able to discover small cancers in their earliest, most treatable stages. Throughout your screening visit, our emphasis is on your comfort, privacy and dignity.
Screening mammogram: This routine screening tool takes low-energy X-ray images of the breasts to look for early signs of cancer in women who aren’t having any symptoms. The goal of this procedure is to detect cancer as early as possible. Thanks to the increase in women who routinely get screening mammograms, more breast cancers today are being caught in the earliest, most treatable stages.
If you have a screening mammogram scheduled but you develop a symptom before your appointment, please let the technologist know before the start of your exam. Changes in your imaging study may be needed if you are experiencing symptoms.
Diagnostic mammogram: If you have a breast lump or other breast symptoms, or if a screening mammogram has revealed something unusual, your doctor may schedule a diagnostic mammogram. This is the same as a screening mammogram, except that the X-rays will focus specifically on the suspicious area, taking magnified images from several angles.
Diagnostic mammograms can help determine whether the area in question is normal or requires further testing. Fortunately, most painful breast lumps, as well as “calcifications” found on mammograms, are not cancer.
3D digital mammogram: In 3D mammography, also known as digital tomosynthesis, the procedure is similar to getting a standard 2D mammogram. The difference is that the X-ray takes more images and combines them to create a clearer, three-dimensional view of the breast. Studies have found that 3D mammograms identify more cancers, result in fewer false positives, and detect more cancers in patients with all levels of breast density and in all age groups. are more effective in women who are 65 and older.
Magnetic resonance imaging uses magnets and radio waves rather than X-rays, so it doesn’t involve any radiation. It takes longer than a mammogram — about 30-45 minutes — and may be used to more closely evaluate patients in special circumstances. These may include patients who:
- Are at especially high risk for breast cancer
- Have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer
- Are at risk for recurrence after treatment
- Have had abnormal findings on a mammogram or ultrasound
- Have breast implants
Breast ultrasound: This imaging technique is often used after a mammogram to provide more information, such as whether a lump is solid (potential cancer) or filled with fluid (a cyst). During this painless procedure, a lubricating jelly is spread over the area to be evaluated, and a wand-like instrument is moved over the area, sending sound waves into the breast, which then reflect an image of the area onto a screen.
Automated breast ultrasound: Automated breast ultrasound is an automated machine that uses ultrasounds to look at breast tissue. As a screening tool, it is most useful in women who have dense breast tissue, done in conjunction with their screening mammogram. Dense breast tissue can sometimes make it hard to see subtle findings in a mammogram. This technique has been shown to be helpful as an additional screening tool since is allows for detection of small masses or lumps despite the density of the breast tissue.
Providence provides expertise in treating all types of breast cancer, including rare forms.
- Ductal cancers start in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple.
- Lobular cancers start in the glands, or “lobules,” that produce milk.
- In situ indicates abnormal or cancerous cells that have not spread beyond the duct or gland.
- Infiltrating or invasive cancers have spread into surrounding breast tissue.
- Metastatic cancers have spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body.
The cancers we treat include, but are not limited to:
- Infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common type, making up 70-80% of all breast cancers. It begins in the lining of the milk ducts and then grows through the ducts into the nearby breast tissue. If not treated, it can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): This is a non- or pre-invasive cancer that is still confined to the milk ducts, but that may become invasive.
- Infiltrating lobular carcinoma (ILC): Another common form of breast cancer, this type begins in the lining of the milk-producing glands and grows into the breast tissue. Without treatment, it can spread outside of the breast.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS): These abnormal cells, confined to the milk glands, are not technically considered cancer and don’t typically become invasive. However, they do increase the risk of developing cancer in either breast in the future.
- Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC): In this rare and very aggressive disease, cancer cells block the lymph vessels of the breast skin, causing inflammation, swelling, redness and thickening of the skin. This fast-spreading cancer can metastasize without quick treatment. About 1-5% of breast cancers are inflammatory.
- Metastatic breast cancer (MBC): While breast cancers that have spread to other parts of the body can’t be cured, there are many treatments that can help keep them under control for years.
Your personalized treatment plan will depend on factors that are unique to you, from your specific diagnosis to your personal health and preferences. But one thing that most patients can count on is that it will take a team. And that’s where Little Company of Mary, in partnership with City of Hope, shines.
Your team may include multiple experts who specialize in very specific aspects of treatment, as well as nurses, dietitians, counselors and others, all collaborating on your care. Collaboration is key, and we do it well. One way is through regular case review meetings, where members of your team, as well as Providence experts from outside your team, gather to review patient cases and to share clinical opinions, recommend treatments or symptom-management strategies, assess the need for genetic cancer risk assessment, suggest opportunities for clinical trials, and optimize care coordination.
From the latest targeted therapies to the most innovative approaches emerging through clinical trials, Providence Little Company of Mary leverages the full power of today’s most advanced, evidence-based therapies to treat breast cancer. Your personalized treatment plan may include any or all of the following:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy (endocrine therapy)
- Targeted therapy
- Clinical trials
- Genetic testing
The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chances of successful treatment. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to any changes in your breasts that could be signs of breast cancer. Understanding what is normal for your breasts, and what isn’t, can be lifesaving.
In the very earliest stages, breast cancer has no outward symptoms. Sometimes the earliest sign is a tiny lump, or mass, that’s detectable only on a mammogram. As the disease progresses, however, more noticeable changes might appear. These can vary widely — while a lump is the most common symptom, it is by no means the only one. Any of the following changes could be a warning sign of breast cancer:
- A lump in the breast or armpit area
- Thickening or redness of the breast skin
- Swelling in all or part of the breast
- Dimpling, puckering, irritation or scaliness of the breast skin or nipple
- Pain or tenderness in the breast or nipple
- A nipple that turns inward, flattens out, pulls to one side or changes direction
- Bloody nipple discharge or unilateral discharge other than breast milk
These symptoms may be signs of breast cancer in men as well as women.
If you notice a potential symptom of breast cancer, or if you’re concerned about any changes in the way one of your breasts looks or feels, please call your primary care provider or breast care specialist. While these symptoms don’t always indicate cancer — sometimes they are signs of something less serious, such as a cyst or an infection — it’s important to have a physician evaluate them right away. Don’t wait to see if they go away on their own. It bears repeating: treating breast cancer successfully is much easier when it’s caught and treated early.
Breast cancer risk assessment is very important for identifying women who may benefit from more intensive breast cancer surveillance. Utilizing advanced conversational AI technology called a CARE chatbot, we screen every patient undergoing mammography.
We screen every patient undergoing a screening or diagnostic mammogram for breast cancer risk. A Tyrer-Cuzick (TC) lifetime risk of developing breast cancer score is calculated and updated annually. Women with calculated lifetime risk of 20% or higher are recommended to consider screening with annual breast MRI in addition to annual mammography, which can provide the highest sensitivity in detecting breast cancer.
We screen every patient undergoing a screening or diagnostic mammogram for inherited risk to identify individuals who meet criteria for cancer genetic risk assessment due to personal and family history of cancer. Patients who meet National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Genetic/Familial Risk criteria are given additional information and are contacted by our genetics program for appropriate follow up.
Genetic counseling and testing are available for all hereditary cancer syndromes and familial patterns of cancer. To deliver precision medicine, our genetic counselors combine genetic test results, personal factors, family history, and counseling to generate a personalized genetic risk assessment with estimates of future cancer risks for both individuals and family members. The process of genetic counseling creates risk estimates of increased accuracy as well as improved patient and physician understanding, which leads to individualized medical management, empowered cancer prevention, and appropriate risk reduction strategies.
We offer multiple service options to meet individual needs for genetic testing including:
- In-person appointments, telehealth appointments, mammography and walk-in clinics.
- Full-service genetic counseling for comprehensive pre-test and post-test engagement.
- Walk-in genetics clinics with rapid sample collection for convenient genetic testing that includes expert coordination and oversight by a licensed board-certified genetic counselor.
- Post-test genetic counseling for individuals who have had previous genetic testing and would like an updated or expert interpretation of their results, would like to consider having updated or additional testing, or would benefit from having a formal comprehensive risk assessment.