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Breast Cancer Program

Our Program

Our breast care team provides prompt, compassionate, comprehensive care to both women and men with diseases of the breast through our multidisciplinary team of specialists. Sansum Clinic physicians and surgeons treat more than half of the patients diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Santa Barbara.

The breast care program is based at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center for outpatient care and at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for inpatient care.

Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Care

Ridley-Tree Cancer Center’s breast cancer team includes breast surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, researchers, patient navigators, genetic counselors, oncology dietitian nutritionists, physical therapists (lymphedema) and other support staff providing prompt, compassionate diagnostic services and comprehensive care, close to home. Our breast care team collaborates with the multidisciplinary team of the Santa Barbara Breast Care Alliance, providing patients with the collective knowledge of Santa Barbara County’s diverse team of breast cancer experts. In addition to treating breast cancer, we also care for patients with benign breast disease, including complications of lactation.


Cancer is a disease in which cells become abnormal and form more cells in an uncontrolled way. With breast cancer, the cancer begins in the tissues that make up the breasts. The cancer cells may form a mass called a tumor. (Note: Not all tumors are cancer.) They may also invade nearby tissue and spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body. The most common types of breast cancer are:

Ductal carcinoma – Cancer that begins in the ducts and grows into surrounding tissues. About 8 in 10 breast cancers are this type.

Lobular carcinoma – Cancer that begins in lobules and grows into surrounding tissues. About 2 in 10 breast cancers are this type.

Treatment for breast cancer depends on a number of factors and often involves more than one approach. The stage of the cancer, the tumor size, the type of breast cancer, whether or not you have reached menopause, and your overall health will determine what treatment you receive.

Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Most people do not have any signs or symptoms at all. Most breast cancers are detected on yearly screening mammography performed as part of a woman's routine preventative healthcare.

Some warning signs of breast cancer are:

  • New lump in the breast or under the arm
  • Nipple retraction (pulling or tethering of the nipple toward the breast)
  • Bloody or clear nipple discharge – spontaneous
  • Breast skin changes, such as thickening or dimpling or redness

Keep in mind that these symptoms can occur with other conditions that are not cancer. To determine whether or not cancer is present requires one or more of the diagnostic procedures detailed below.


Early detection is critical to determining a good outcome for breast cancer. Our breast radiologists are experts in using the latest diagnostic technology to evaluate breast concerns and diagnose breast cancer.

3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis)

Women are recommended to have annual screening mammogram. Radiation for mammogram is equivalent to ambient radiation from your environment over three months. Mammography is the only method of detecting microcalcifications which can be the first sign of early breast cancer.

If any abnormalities are found during a screening mammogram, additional breast imaging may be recommended to evaluate the concern:

Breast Ultrasound

A machine that uses sound waves to make detailed pictures of the breast. Breast ultrasound can be used for screening (whole breast ultrasound) or to evaluate an abnormality detected on mammogram (diagnostic ultrasound).

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Medical imaging technique that uses magnetic field and computer generated radio waves to create detailed images of the breast.


This is a procedure that removes a small amount of tissue from the breast so that the sample can be tested to determine whether or not it is breast cancer. There are different kinds of biopsies but generally core needle biopsies are the standard so that a definitive diagnosis can be made prior to surgery. 


If breast cancer is diagnosed, other tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the breast or to other parts of the body. This process is called staging. Whether the cancer is only in the breast, is found in lymph nodes under your arm, or has spread outside the breast determines your stage of breast cancer. The type and stage of breast cancer tells doctors what kind of treatment you need.

At Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, our comprehensive approach to treatment ensures that we create personalized treatment plans for every patient with breast cancer. 

Treatment plans may include:

Breast Surgery 

Breast surgical oncology is a key component in the care of patients diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgical treatment together with medical and/or radiation oncology are the mainstays of breast cancer care. Depending on the type of cancer, surgery can be recommended either before or after chemotherapy.

The stage and location of the tumor and the overall health of the patient determine the type of surgery that will be most beneficial and effective. Our breast surgeons will discuss the type of surgery (lumpectomy/partial mastectomy or total mastectomy) that is appropriate for you. Our breast surgeons use oncoplastic techniques for breast conservation and work together with plastic surgeons when women choose mastectomy and reconstruction.

Chemotherapy/Medical Oncology

Our Medical Oncology department delivers chemotherapy, biologic therapies, immunotherapy and supportive treatments for cancer patients. Our personalized approach to treatment requires close collaboration between all the clinicians involved in the care of the patient. Cancer Center Medical Oncologists collaborate with other oncologists, community physicians in private practice and the primary care/specialty physicians at Sansum Clinic to create a coordinated and comprehensive approach to cancer care. All of our oncologists are board certified in their specialties and come from some of the most prestigious training programs in the country.

Radiation Oncology

As the premier provider of Radiation Oncology in Santa Barbara County, and the only location in Central California to have two Elekta Versa HD linear accelerators, the Cancer Center provides the latest Radiation Oncology treatments available, including stereotactic radiosurgery, brachytherapy and external beam radiation therapy. Radiation treatment is prescribed by our Radiation Oncologists who have been educated in world-famous teaching institutions. Our Radiation Oncologists are board certified in their specialties and have received extensive training to ensure precise treatment outcomes.

Clinical Trials 

For some people with breast cancer, a clinical trial might be the best treatment option available. A clinical trial is a research study in which patients participate to help determine the effectiveness of a new medical treatment, procedure or technology. Those who participate in clinical trials are often the first people to access new therapies that are not yet readily available.


Ridley-Tree Cancer Center offers clinical trials through our partnerships with US Oncology Research NetworkNRG Oncology Network and leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Our medical oncologists together with the Clinical Research Department review records and identify those who may benefit from the promising new therapies offered in clinical trials.


Ask your doctor if there is a clinical trial that is right for you. To search for clinical trials available at Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, please visit our Clinical Trials online search tool.

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