Cancer Care

New East Bay Clinic Places Breast Cancer Patients at the Center of Care

Posted on Nov 10, 2020 in Cancer Care, Scroll Images

Telehealth Increases Convenience, Allows Time to Get Questions Answered

Michelle and Joe Goldsmith

Like many women who receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, Michelle Goldsmith, was overwhelmed when her biopsy showed breast cancer. She had so many questions about her diagnosis and knew that difficult decisions lay ahead. She knew she needed to make a battery of appointments and ultimately visit oncologists and other specialists located in different locations.

As Goldsmith was beginning to make plans, a friend told her about the Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic that had just been launched by breast cancer specialists at Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation (SEBMF). Goldsmith made one phone call to a nurse navigator, and that set off a process that she now calls “life changing.”

The nurse navigator helped her plan the various tests and scans. The novel part of the process is that, once Goldsmith had the appropriate scans, all the oncologists and specialists met together in one pre-clinic conference call to go over her history and records to determine her best treatment for a cure.

Immediately after the call, Goldsmith was able to schedule a comprehensive team consultation with her breast surgeon in-person as well as virtual consultations with her medical oncologist and radiation oncologist.

After the two-and-a-half-hour appointment, Goldsmith left the office having met with her entire treatment team and with a one-page summary detailing her diagnosis, stage, and course of treatment. And because of the convenience of telemedicine video visits, Goldsmith could meet with all the specialists in one office, rather than seeing each one at a different time in a different location.

 “It made all the difference in the world,” Goldsmith said of the multidisciplinary approach. “As a patient you feel so supported. It made me feel good that they had all agreed on a course of action, it wasn’t just one person’s opinion. And then you could see the oncologists face to face, and ask them as many questions as you wanted.”

Eileen Consorti, M.D. and
Rita Kwan-Feinberg, M.D.

Rita Kwan-Feinberg, M.D., and Eileen Consorti, M.D., breast cancer surgeons with SEBMF, started the program that is a similar design to multidisciplinary programs at other cancer centers around the country and well-documented in medical literature. The clinic began in mid-August and since then about 25 women – all with new breast cancer diagnosis – have been seen in the clinic based in Oakland.

“Part of it is looking at a way to have a much more streamlined approach for the patient,” explains Dr. Kwan-Feinberg. “With breast cancer, the treatment is always multidisciplinary so it makes sense for the patient to have one visit that is multidisciplinary and involves a team approach. From the patient’s perspective, I wanted each patient to have the best experience that would reduce the anxiety and fear that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis by answering all questions and having a treatment plan in one day.”

Dr. Consorti says a benefit is that the clinic helps coordinate the communication between different oncologists and specialists, and it is a convenient way for the patient to be able to speak to members of the team in one place, at the same time.

“Everyone is communicating in one fell swoop and is on the same page,” Dr. Consorti said, referring to the pre-clinic conference. “For the patient, it lays out their plan so they know what their care will entail.”

The two surgeons say it was a perfect time to start a patient-friendly, multidisciplinary program in part because of Sutter Health’s increasing capabilities in telehealth. After the patient meets with a breast cancer surgeon in person, an iPad is rolled into the office, and the patient meets via video visit with a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist who are in other locations. And the program can be managed at a time when the number of in-person, office visits have been spread out to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19.

“The patient doesn’t go from office to office on different days so it minimizes exposure for patients and staff, and we have implemented deep cleaning procedures in the clinic,” Dr. Kwan-Feinberg said.

The pre-clinic virtual meetings are usually about 45 minutes long and include the breast surgeon, the medical oncologist, the radiation oncologist, the nurse navigator, the medical assistants and the surgery scheduler. Depending on the case, other clinicians are involved such as the pathologist, a geneticist and a lymphedema prevention specialist.

In addition to coming up with the best medical treatment, the plan that is given to the patient can be personalized, taking into account any relevant social issues or personal preferences. For instance, if a woman has children, there may be a list of child care resources. And, Dr. Kwan-Feinberg recalls that in one case the team learned that a patient was interested in herbal medicine so they included a referral in her plan to a physician who specializes in integrative or holistic treatments.

“My patients have been saying, ‘this is so great, I have a team taking care of me,’ ” said Dr. Kwan-Feinberg.

CAL FIRE Fundraiser Benefits SPMF Cancer Support Services

Posted on Nov 9, 2020 in Cancer Care, Scroll Images

Current and former employees of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, known as CAL FIRE, recently donated $20,000 to Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation’s (SPMF) Cancer Support Services program.

Their donation was made possible thanks to monies raised from the Unit’s Forestry Crab Feed. This annual event invites CAL FIRE employees and their family and friends to eat in the name of fundraising.

“Our tradition with this dinner is to help raise money for those in our community in need,” said Ben Nicholls, CAL FIRE Division Chief. “We have retired members battling cancer, so we’ve heard firsthand the impact these counseling groups and other services have on these individuals. We wanted to give this year’s donation in their names. This $20,000 also represents the largest one-time contribution given in our 60-year history of hosting the Forestry Crab Feed.”

Sutter Health’s approach to cancer care combines conventional medical treatments with evidence-based supportive services and integrative practices to strengthen and enhance a patient’s overall well-being.

“Donations like this mean everything,” said Cindi Cantril, RN, MPH, OCN, CBCN, regional director of cancer support services and patient navigation for Sutter Bay Medical Foundation. “We are proud that all the money that’s given, 100 percent of it, impacts patients directly.”

Sutter affiliates provide care for nearly a third of all cancers in Sonoma County.

Cancer care for the mind, body & soul

Cancer Support Services offers a wide range of supportive services to help patients and their families address the many physical, psychological and emotional challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis through navigation, support groups, peer support, and patient education.

SPMF’s Cancer Support Services program helps improve the long-term health of patients by offering services that:

  • improve patients’ knowledge of their diagnosis and their ability to practice self-care
  • reduce the stress, fear, and anxiety of both patients and their caregivers
  • improve adherence to individualized treatment plans and continuing survivorship care
  • educate them about local and national resources on a wide range of topics (e.g., finances, nutrition, stress reduction, exercise, and recovery)

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, early cancer detection is still the key to recovery.

Medical experts agree that if you had an appointment postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, such as an annual mammogram, now is the time to reschedule it.

For more information about cancer care at Sutter Health, visit here.

‘Catwalk For A Cure’ Raises $140K In Virtual Event

Posted on Nov 5, 2020 in Cancer Care, Scroll Images

In Sonoma County, Calif., approximately 2,400 people are diagnosed with cancer each year.

“We are living in extraordinary times, and in spite of all this, cancer diagnoses are still happening,” said Lisa Amador, assistant administrator and director of philanthropy for Sutter Health in the North Bay.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sutter’s philanthropy team knew they needed to change up their famed Catwalk For A Cure event, which raises money to support programs and services for those with living cancer.

“A reimagining was necessary and vital to support Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation’s Cancer Support and Integrative Health & Healing services. We got busy planning a fun and meaningful tribute,” said Amador.

Going Virtual in 2020

This year’s revamped format featured interviews with cancer survivors, ‘did you know’ Catwalk trivia, music, and hundreds of photos of the most outrageous fashions from years past.

Cindy Cantril, RN, MPH, OCN, CBCN, regional director of cancer support services and patient navigation for Sutter Bay Medical Foundation, shared that Sutter’s Cancer Support Services are available to anyone battling cancer, whether they are receiving care through Sutter or not.

“Our goal is to serve patients from the moment of diagnosis to end of life. We provide virtual support groups, pain relief, equine-assisted therapy, retreats, counseling, and educational programs that help with anxiety, nutrition, and exercise,” said Cantril.

Tara Jasper was among the interviewees who opened up to viewers about her cancer journey.

“The network of women and survivors I have met through the Catwalk community has given me an incredible safety net. I’m grateful to all the donors for being so committed to keeping this program and these services alive,” she said.

Catwalk’s Legacy

Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation’s (SPMF) Cancer Support and Integrative Health & Healing services have been assisting cancer patients and their families since 2004. Programs are philanthropically funded, provided at no cost to individuals, and are kept going because of grants, foundation support and individual donors.

This year, more than $140,000 was raised virtually, with more than $5 Million raised since the first Catwalk event. To watch the 2020 recording, please visit here.

Mammography Goes Mobile

Posted on Oct 9, 2020 in Cancer Care, Scroll Images


The Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, part of Sutter Health’s not-for-profit integrated network of care, has launched a new mobile mammography van to provide convenient access to screening mammography services for underserved women and help improve early detection of breast cancer.

“Finding breast cancer at its earliest possible stage is critical to survival, and early detection through regular mammograms remains the best defense against the disease,” says oncologic surgeon Eileen Consorti, M.D., medical director of the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Program. “As a breast cancer survivor, this cause is very personal to me. The mobile mammography van will provide screenings to hundreds of women each year, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured.”

Beginning this month, the 40-foot van will travel to community-based health care clinics in the East Bay and surrounding communities to provide mammography services to underserved women. The van will eventually travel to senior centers, houses of worship, health fairs and businesses once the COVID-19 threat lessens, broadening access to critical breast health services while providing the same high-quality care as patients who come to Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center locations.

“Access to affordable and convenient breast cancer screenings can be lifesaving. Our mobile mammography unit will help our team bring advanced technology to patients in our community that most need it,” says Alta Bates Summit Medical Center CEO David Clark.

The new mobile mammography van is equipped with 3D mammography (digital breast tomosynthesis) and also offers a comfortable waiting area as well as a private changing and exam room.

The van is made possible by a grant from Peter Read, co-founder of Grocery Outlet in honor of his wife Carol Ann Read who passed away from breast cancer, and a Sutter match grant.

Read has worked collaboratively with Alta Bates Summit administrators and physicians to raise funds to update breast screening equipment in the East Bay and provide for the needs of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer for many years. He has also funded educational events to raise breast cancer awareness within Latino and African American communities.

Although the pain of losing Carol Ann will never go away, Peter Read is comforted by the impact his philanthropy has made. “This investment in Alta Bates Summit gives me great personal satisfaction,” he says. “I am excited about reaching even more women with the mobile mammography.”

Advanced Breast Imaging Now Offered at Sutter Delta Medical Center

Posted on Oct 5, 2020 in Cancer Care

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Delta residents now have the option of staying in the community and still enjoying access to advanced three-dimensional (3D) mammography.

Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch offers patients access to advanced screening and diagnostic breast imaging, known as 3D tomosynthesis or tomo, to improve the early detection of breast cancer.

“Bringing state-of-the-art mammography imaging technology, like our new 3D tomosynthesis suite, to the local community is central to our mission here at Sutter Delta Medical Center. We serve a diverse population, and our hospital is proud to expand its offerings to help women in eastern Contra Costa County to better manage their health. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an ideal time to talk to your physician about whether 3D tomography is the right option for you,” said Sutter Delta CEO Sherie Hickman.

What are the advantages of 3D Mammography?

“3D tomosynthesis mammography is a tremendous advancement in breast cancer screening over traditional (two-dimensional) 2D mammography,” says John Van Uden, M.D., medical director of Sutter Delta Medical Center’s Diagnostic Imaging Services. “Instead of single, flat two-dimensional images of the breast, 3D mammography obtains a scrollable 3-D set of images in each orientation. This greatly enhances our ability to distinguish normal breast tissue from a breast cancer.”

Kyla Yee, M.D., a Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation OB/GYN based in Antioch agrees, “3D tomo offers a significant advantage over traditional two-dimensional mammography. With this advanced technology, we’re often able to find cancer when it’s still extremely small. And we know that when we are able to detect and treat cancer at its early stages, patients can have much better survival rates.” Studies have shown that adding 3-D tomo to regular screening mammograms can help detect more cancers in dense breast tissue. Says Michele Bergman, M.D., a Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation OB/GYN based in Antioch, “3D tomo can provide better cancer detection, fewer call backs and greater peace of mind for patients.”

And despite these diagnostic improvements, says Dr. Van Uden, the exam involves approximately the same very low-dose of X-ray to obtain the images, and no additional inconvenience or discomfort for the patient.

How does 3D tomography work?

During a 3D tomo mammogram, an x-ray arm moves in an arc over the compressed breast capturing multiple images from different angles. These digital images are then reconstructed or “synthesized” into a set of 3D images by a computer.

Sutter Delta’s 3D tomo machine is housed in a brand new suite at the hospital, offering patients and referring physicians in eastern Contra Costa County local access to advanced technology in the arsenal to detect breast cancer early.

Safety is the Number One Priority

Sutter Delta, like all Sutter imaging centers, is taking steps to protect patients and staff. These steps include:

  • Mandatory Masking – Staff, patients and visitors must wear masks at all times.
  • Isolation – Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is isolated from waiting areas, patient rooms, entrances and spaces the general population uses.
  • Cleaning – Our teams have increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Screening – Everyone is screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before entering our care.

Remember, catching up on preventive care that may have been postponed during the pandemic, such as a mammogram or a colonoscopy, is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.

Click here for more information about 3D mammography and imaging mammography at Sutter Delta or call (925) 756-1146.

Lost Your Insurance? Resources to Help with Health Insurance Disruption

Health insurance coverage can be disrupted by wage or job loss, but there are options that provide access to important cancer screenings, even if you’ve lost your normal source of coverage.

In California, the Every Woman Counts program covers mammograms and cervical cancer screening for women with no or limited insurance who meet other eligibility criteria. To learn more, patients can call (800) 511-2300.

Other options include extending employer-based coverage through COBRA and CalCOBRA, shopping for plans and applying for premium assistance through Covered California, or applying for and qualifying for Medi-Cal. Charity care and financial assistance options may also be available. You can learn more about these options by visiting our coverage options page.

Colon Cancer Up Among Younger Age Groups; Screening Key to Early Detection

Posted on Sep 4, 2020 in Cancer Care, Scroll Images

Actor Chadwick Boseman’s death from colon cancer at age 43 came as a shock. Following his passing, Boseman’s family shared that he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer four years earlier. Many headlines captured the public’s collective sentiment—Colon cancer? But he was so young!

Michael Abel, M.D., chair of surgery at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) and colorectal surgeon, says of the news, “When you look at a 39-year-old male in his prime who is coming in with GI symptoms and not feeling well, colon cancer would not be at the top of the list. That needs to change.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says the rate at which younger people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer is rising. Data shows the disease’s case rates have been increasing since the mid-1980s in adults ages 20-39 years and since the mid-1990s in adults ages 40-54 years. On the upside, data shows case rates among individuals 65 and older are decreasing.

“While the medical community doesn’t know why these rates are climbing in younger populations, physicians are now paying closer attention to this cancer,” says Dr. Abel.

Colorectal Cancer Facts

According to the American Cancer Society:

• Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S.

• About one in 23 men and one in 25 women will develop colon or rectal cancer at some point during their lifetime.

• It is estimated that there will be 104,610 new cases of colon cancer and 43,340 new cases of rectal cancer in the U.S. this year.

• The rate of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is higher among the Black community than among any other population group in the U.S.

For more information about colorectal cancer, visit here.

New Thinking on Screenings

In 2018, the American Cancer Society lowered the recommended screening age for people with average colorectal cancer risk, i.e. no family history, to age 45. “More aggressive screening is the best thing we can do to help prevent colorectal cancer and helps allow those who are diagnosed with cancer to have better outcomes,” says Dr. Abel.

For individuals with a family history of the disease, meaning a first degree relative or parent was diagnosed, a physician will likely recommend getting screened as early as age 40.

Black Community at Increased Risk of Developing Colon Cancer

Black people are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at a younger age and to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed. According to the National Cancer Institute, even when African Americans are diagnosed with early stage disease, they have significantly worse survival rates.

“Earlier and more aggressive screening in this group can help bridge this gap,” says Dr. Abel.

Primary Care Doctors Paying More Attention

A patient’s primary care doctor is typically his or her first line of defense in knowing if symptoms warrant further examination.

“Providers should consider other potential causes of a symptom like rectal bleeding, beyond assuming its hemorrhoids, as an important step in diagnosing what could be a more concerning issue. The physician can then refer the patient to a specialist who will perform a more thorough screening or schedule a colonoscopy,” says Dr. Abel.

“Colorectal cancer can be preventable, and if detected early, curable,” he says.

For ways to reduce your colon cancer risk, visit here.

CPMC’s Colorectal Cancer Center of Excellence Program

In 2019, Sutter’s CPMC was recognized by the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer (NAPRC) as a leading Center of Excellence. To earn this three-year accreditation, CPMC met 19 standards, including the establishment of a rectal cancer multidisciplinary team, which includes clinical representatives from surgery, pathology, radiology, radiation oncology and medical oncology.

Read more about CPMC’s accreditation here.

For more information, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. To find a Sutter primary care physician, click here.