Oct 2022

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Providence Breast Centre


October is breast cancer awareness month! We’re highlighting the exceptional work being done at the Providence Breast Centre.

Breast cancer is a common malignancy and the most common cancer found in women. However, breast cancer does not only affect women; approximately 1% of breast cancers are found in men. Although there are some known risk factors including genetic mutations and age, most women have no significant risk factors. A diagnosis of breast cancer is life-altering.

The team at the Providence Breast Centre strives to provide all patients with an individualized treatment plan and exceptional care as they journey through treatment for their breast cancer.

The Centre treats the highest volume of breast cancer patients in British Columbia and sees patients from all regions of the province, as well as some from Yukon.

A multidisciplinary team and collaborative approach

The Breast Centre’s skilled radiologists have extensive experience in the diagnostic workup of breast cancer and breast lesions, and also work with radiologists at BC Cancer. Once a decision for a biopsy has been made by the Radiology team, biopsy results are quickly analyzed by the Centre’s team of pathologists, who are experienced in diagnosing breast lesions and malignancies.

After biopsy results have been obtained and a diagnosis has been made, the patient is referred for consultation with surgeons and physicians at the Providence Breast Centre.

Patients who require surgery or an assessment by a surgeon undergo a thorough evaluation at the clinic, where a treatment plan is established.  Patients who have had testing done at an outside facility can be referred for this care as well.

Treatment is highly individualized, and requires a thorough assessment of the patient’s situation. The team works together to come up with the best treatment plan based on the patient’s radiologic and pathologic diagnosis.

Breast surgical oncologists also work closely with the radiation and medical oncologist at BC Cancer to collaborate on, deliver and coordinate the necessary treatments for the patient.

The group also meets regularly for multidisciplinary tumor boards to discuss complex cases with radiologists, pathologists, as well as surgeons.

Surgical services

The Breast Centre maintains a very high volume of breast surgeries on a near daily basis at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital as well as at other sites including St. Paul’s, Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital.

Surgeries range from very small excisions to mastectomies with reconstruction using implant or tissue based reconstructions 2 lymph node surgery and axillary lymph node dissections.

Operative days are busy as patients require multiple steps to accomplish their surgeries, including nuclear medicine injections, wire placement by the radiologist on the day of surgery, as well as regional anesthetic blocks that provide better pain outcomes postoperatively, and minimize the need for general anesthetic.

The Centre also has a very close relationship with Plastic surgery and Plastic Surgeons as part of the treatment team. Every week, two operative rooms are dedicated to patient’s who require immediate reconstruction after surgery to remove their breast cancer.

Maintaining access during COVID-19

The Centre has been very busy throughout the pandemic and has maintained surgical volumes for cancer treatments throughout. The team has been innovative in introducing new techniques such as regional anesthetics, as well as increased same day discharges and virtual care to allow for ongoing cancer care during these challenging times.

Mount Saint Joseph clinic

The Breast Centre clinic was beautifully renovated in 2016 to meet the needs of complex patients to ensure patient privacy, and to allow for appropriate space for physicians,  staff and family members.

Dedicated nurse navigators and clerical staff allow for a well coordinated flow to the clinic and to patient care.

Breast Cancer research

Dedicated research assistants have helped to coordinate extensive clinical research, have been successful in achieving publication in respected peer review journals, and have presented at international and national meetings.

Most importantly, this research has allowed the team to ensure that results reported elsewhere are applicable to the Breast Centre patients — and has changed how patients are looked after, based on findings.

Our goal: world class care

Ultimately, the goal of the Breast Centre is that every patient receive world class care and treatment for breast cancer and breast lesions. This is accomplished through the amazing, dedicated multidisciplinary team, collaboration and strong ties to diagnostic workups in the community and to the adjuvant treatments offered at BC Cancer, and through the availability of treatment approaches, techniques and research.

Breast cancer treatment, thanks to immense research, has changed the face of breast cancer; and can be a curable situation for many patients.

Most people have been touched by breast cancer through either themselves, a close friend or relative. Early diagnosis and treatment allows for the best outcomes.

If you or anyone you are close with has concerns about your breast health, please discuss those concerns with your family physician or nurse practitioner. The Providence Breast Centre is here to help through every step of the journey.