Health Team

New center offers array of breast cancer care in one place

Posted August 19, 2016 5:31 p.m. EDT
Updated August 19, 2016 7:04 p.m. EDT

When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, she'll face a whirlwind of exams and visit many specialists. A new women's cancer care center in Raleigh is designed to streamline that experience. Duke Women's Cancer Care Raleigh, on Macon Pond Road off Blue Ridge Road, combines the latest technology with convenience. It is a comprehensive women's cancer center, but its main focus is breast cancer.

Last fall, even though a recent mammogram showed no cause for concern, 41-year-old Lisa Hickman knew something was wrong. Her continuous breast discomfort led to more tests, including lymph node biopsies before her doctor found the problem.

"He said, 'You have inflammatory breast cancer.' And that's when I was like, you know, this has got to go. I'm in the fight for my life now," she said.

Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive form of the disease, and African-American women are at higher risk for it.

Hickman had a family history of breast cancer.

"She had one sister with cancer (and) had some other family members who had had biopsies and so forth," said Dr. Lisa Tolnitch, a Duke breast cancer surgeon.

Tolnitch says those factors helped Hickman pursue conclusive answers and aggressive treatment, including a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Her experience has been streamlined under one roof in Raleigh at the new Duke Cancer Care center.

"Everything is there," Hickman said.

After diagnosis, patients come to one place, potentially in one day, to visit all cancer specialists.

"Doctors will be talking to each other in real time instead of just by e-mail or telephone," Tolnitch said.

The doctors still use telephones, often to share good news.

"And July 13th, Dr. Tolnitch called me and told me the chemo had got all the cancer," Hickman said.

Still, Hickman faces another year of less-toxic chemo treatments to give her the best chance of remaining cancer-free.