Cancer Care

Posts about the Cancer Care Program at PAMF and other related cancer stories

Fighting Breast Cancer in New Ways

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

Angelina Jolie surprised the world when she had a preventative double mastectomy. Yet she had strong reasons to do so. She inherited the rare BRCA1 gene, which her doctors estimated gave her an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer. By having surgery, she minimized her risk of developing the disease.

While this course of action is relatively new in the fight against breast cancer, it’s not the only one changing the way experts treat and prevent the disease. Doctors at Sutter Health affiliates Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Mills-Peninsula Health Services say key developments in recent years are reshaping the course of treatment for women who have breast cancer, or who are at risk for breast cancer.

“The whole way in which we manage, treat and take care of breast cancer patients today is hugely different,” says Harriet Borofsky, M.D., medical director of the Mills-Peninsula Women’s Center. Here are some of the latest advances in breast cancer care.

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A Doctor’s Breast Cancer Survival Story

Karen Harrington, M.D., and her husband Stephen

Karen Harrington, M.D., and her husband Stephen

Karen Harrington, M.D., a family medicine doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Aptos Office, knows first-hand that anyone can receive a breast cancer diagnosis.

“I never thought I’d be the one to get cancer,” says Dr. Harrington. “I exercise regularly, eat well, live in the Santa Cruz mountains and I got breast cancer.”

Watch her story in this video:

Apart from skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death, after lung cancer.
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A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story

Edna Shochat

Edna Shochat

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

When Edna Shochat discovered a lump in her breast in 2010, she was about to go on a long-anticipated trip to Israel with her husband. She had already postponed this special trip for a full year to recover from a serious break to her leg and the resulting surgery.

“It was a painful dilemma,” says Shochat, a vibrant 71 year old. “I agonized over whether I should change my plans and give up what might be our last perfect vacation.”

She decided to keep her discovery secret and went ahead with the month-long trip.

“Everyone was so pleased to see how my broken leg had healed and kept telling me how well I looked,” says Shochat. “They didn’t know that I could barely sleep, worrying about the lump. I was counting down the days, trying to hold on to each hour and keep my ‘vacation from reality’ from coming to an end.”

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Learn About Cancer Prevention, Treatment, Survivorship


An estimated 1,660,290 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2013. You can prevent many of these cancers, and many others are much easier to treat if detected early.

Just consider these 2013 predictions from the American Cancer Society:

  • 2 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed by year end. Many could have been prevented with simple sunscreen.
  • 174,100 Americans will die from cancers caused by cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.

Overall, the World Cancer Research Fund estimates that 25 percent to 33 percent of all cancers in the United States are related to being overweight, inactive or having poor nutrition.

At the same time, cancer treatment is more effective than ever before – the 5-year survival rate is about 68 percent for all cancers combined, compared to 49 percent in 1979.

Learn More at the Celebration of Life Event Oct. 5 in Capitola:

The key to cancer prevention and successful treatment is to become well informed. Get started by attending Celebration of Life: Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, a free program dedicated to increasing awareness about cancer, prevention and survivorship on Saturday, October 5 in Capitola. The event is open to the community, cancer patients, survivors and families. Read More

Radiosurgery: What is It?

Radiosurgery is a noninvasive treatment, where doctors use advanced technology to deliver a precise dose of radiation to a cancerous tumor – without having to cut into the body. Radiosurgery destroys the targeted area without harming the surrounding healthy tissue.

“The technology allows us to track the patient’s position in real time – so we can be sure we’re hitting the target every single time,” said Pauling Chang, M.D., a radiation oncologist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Another benefit for patients, Dr. Chang says, is the convenience of one-day treatment. “I had a patient who had radiosurgery in the morning, and was able to attend a dinner party that same night.”

PAMF is an early adopter of innovative technology – and was the first health care organization in the world to offer this new, precise, radiosurgery technology as part of its comprehensive Cancer Care Program. Learn more about radiosurgery and take a virtual tour with Dr. Chang in this video.

Watch Dr. Chang’s philosophy of care video.

Learn More About Radiosurgery:

What is Radiosurgery?

How is Radiosurgery performed?

Benefits of Radiosurgery Treatment

Overview of Radiosurgery on the International Radiosurgery Association Website

Pet Therapy Program Brings Joy, Decreases Stress for Cancer Patients

The Palo Alto Center Radiation Oncology Department’s three newest employees bring some very special qualities to work – gentle natures, soft fur and wet noses! Therapy specialists Sparky, Sunny and Wallie are the first three dogs who are part of PAMF’s Irene Davidson Animal Assisted Therapy Program that launched in January 2012.

Although Gordon Ray, M.D., medical director of the Palo Alto Center’s Radiation Oncology Department, had read about the benefits of pet therapy for cancer patients in scientific journals, it was a real live dog visit to his department that inspired him to start PAMF’s Animal Assisted Therapy Program.

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