San Diego Health - Spring 2024


she felt a double mastectomy was the best choice for her. “Cancer showed up, and I didn’t want it there,” she says. “ Th ey had to take one breast, and then I almost didn’t trust the other. So, I said, ‘Let’s just get rid of them both.’ It felt like the right thing to do.” A ft er surgery, O’Connor was told that what was originally diagnosed as a 1-centimeter tumor was actually 3

everyone on the team agrees with the plan reassures them that there are no doubts about the diagnosis and the best course of treatment.” Ultimately, a ft er speaking to all three physicians, O’Connor and the team decided that the classic approach was the right course of action, and she underwent surgery with Dr. Rivera fi rst. Th ough she had no family history of breast cancer,

Manish Champaneria, MD, Scripps Clinic plastic surgeon, was also part of O’Connor’s team and performed breast reconstruction surgery following her cancer treatment. Th is team approach is something each breast cancer patient experiences at Scripps, collectively sharing all options with the patient and, ultimately, supporting them on whatever path they choose. “What I loved most about Drs. Rivera, Costantini and Koka was that they truly cared about what was the best treatment for me. I found that to be exceptional health care,” she says. “My meetings were always informative, and there was no sugarcoating, which was perfect for me and Jessica, because then we knew exactly what we were dealing with. I never walked out scared. Instead, I walked out thinking, ‘I’m with the right team.’ I knew they would take care of me, and I felt like I had all these eyes on me. Th ese people became my life because they were saving it.” Dr. Rivera explains that the multidisciplinary approach o ff ered at Scripps is bene fi cial for precisely this reason—it provides the patient with all the information they need to make the best decision. “Most cancer types lend themselves to a multidisciplinary approach—at least the most common ones—because the care involves multiple therapies,” he says. “It’s important to tailor the treatment to the patient, especially with breast cancer, because there isn’t one approach that fits all.” As the surgical oncologist on a breast cancer case, Dr. Rivera is o ft en the fi rst physician to be part of the treatment process. However, as treatments advance, this process continues to evolve. Th at’s another reason why he says the multidisciplinary approach is so bene fi cial. “Historically, as a surgeon, my expertise has been a pretty early part of the patient’s evaluation. Traditionally, treatment has been surgery, plus or minus chemotherapy and radiation. But more and more, as we advance medical approaches to treat breast cancer, patients are bene fi ting from drug therapy upfront,” he explains. “Having multiple providers involved and reviewing the patient’s breast cancer type from the start helps us identify which patients can break the mold, and helps us determine if the classic paradigm doesn’t fi t. Th is is important both for cancer-related outcomes and patient con fi dence. Th e patient’s awareness that

O'Connor formed a special bond with her physicians, including Anuradha Koka, MD, Scripps Clinic, who she looks forward to seeing at the center when she volunteers.


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