For women in the United States, breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, with the exception of lung cancer. Fortunately, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (The General) is committed to providing complete breast cancer services through the Avon Comprehensive Breast Care Program. The Avon Breast Center provides state-of-the-art breast imaging, diagnostic evaluation and patient education, while the weekly inter-disciplinary breast clinic provides comprehensive care in surgical and treatment options, genetic counseling and testing, lymphedema evaluation and treatment, cancer education and culturally sensitive research.
The Avon Program has an extensive network of culturally diverse patient navigators, to assist underserved men and women through the continuum of cancer care from screening through treatment, including end-of- life support. Diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2005, Ca’Ron Yvette is one of the many women the Avon Program has guided through the battle of breast cancer. During the treatment process, doctors noticed Yvette improved physically, but was struggling with the emotional aspects of living with breast cancer. Petrified by the fear of dying, Yvette was paired with a patient navigator. A unique aspect of the Avon program, patient navigators serve as a link between the patient and the health care system by providing answers, access to special services, support during procedures, and education.
“Education, it’s crucial to your survival,” explains Yvette. “When you know what’s going on, how to address it, and what resources are available for you, then you don’t feel that you’re alone in your battle to live.” In addition to providing Yvette with the tools to understand her breast cancer, the Avon Center patient navigator connected Yvette with a support group at The General called Cancer Awareness Resources and Education (CARE). Having the support of other cancer patients finally sparked the courage in Yvette to voice her emotions. “It was like I had another family there,” she says. “Being able to connect what was going on emotionally, as well as physically, made a huge difference in my healing. The group helped me understand that courage was not the absence of fear, but the will to go on in spite of the fear.”
The Avon Center also operates a mobile mammography outreach van “MammoVan” that services nine community clinics in the Bay Area. The Mammovan helps break the barriers of transportation, access, and language fluency.
An estimated 232,570 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2014. Survival of breast cancer is strongly linked to early detection and treatment. The Avon Center is vital ensuring San Franciscans receive the most advanced diagnostics, treatment, care, and emotional support.