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Fighting Cancer Takes Teamwork

Fighting Cancer Takes Teamwork

Seventeen years ago, Kathleen Reen beat breast cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and a positive attitude were her weapons of destruction and she thought the battle was permanently over. But this past April, a routine mammogram led to another breast cancer diagnosis.

This time, her fight would have one big difference. This time, Kathleen would have the support of an entire care team at the UCSF – Washington Cancer Center. She explains, “The first time I was treated for cancer, I had different insurance. The people were all very nice, but I always felt like I was on my own. Each step, I was being introduced all over again and I never felt collaboration between staff members.”

After her mammogram, Kathleen met Christine Mikkelsen, RN, the nurse navigator and clinical coordinator at the Washington Women’s Center. As a nurse navigator, Mikkelsen contacts patients when further imaging is needed. She schedules biopsies when appropriate and once a breast cancer diagnosis is confirmed, Mikkelsen walks patients through every step of the process. Kathleen compares the time she spends with Mikkelsen to being with a friend who knows the ins and outs of cancer treatment.

Next, Kathleen met with Dr. William Dugoni, Washington Township Medical Foundation surgeon and medical director of the Washington Women’s Center. Dr. Dugoni explained that a tumor board meets to develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient with a positive cancer diagnosis. This group includes all care providers that are part of the patient’s treatment journey: nurse navigator Mikkelsen; a medical oncologist; a surgeon; a radiation oncologist; a pathologist; and a plastic surgeon. The patient is fully informed and involved. “This gave me confidence and made me feel like I was part of the solution,” says Kathleen.

Kathleen underwent surgery, where she found the staff to be skilled and compassionate. She recently began chemotherapy and once again, was impressed by both the facility and the care providers of the infusion center. The infusion center at Washington Hospital strives for a comfortable, supportive environment. Each patient has a private area, most with windows facing an atrium, a television or music option and a comfortable guest chair. “From the first visit, the nurses put me at ease. They made sure I was comfortable and even brought me food,” she smiles.

In January, Kathleen will begin radiation. A Newark resident, she was relieved to learn that she would receive all of her cancer treatment in Fremont. The partnership between UCSF Health and Washington Hospital Healthcare System means that Tri-City community members have access to the latest cancer research, technology, and treatment without the trouble of traveling across the Bay, struggling to find parking, and having treatment in various locations.

Kathleen and her three adult brothers share their childhood home with three dogs, two cats and a fish. It’s a lively home where everyone contributes to make things run smoothly. Because of her prior experience, Kathleen knows there will be good days and rough days ahead, but together with her care team, she feels confident that soon she will be working in the yard and enjoying walks in her neighborhood.

For more information on cancer programs through the UCSF – Washington Cancer Center, visit

For more information on Washington Women’s Center and its breast health programs, visit Once a physician order is received, mammograms can be scheduled by calling 510.818.7410. Regular appointment schedule is Monday - Friday, 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. During the months of October, November and December, Saturday appointments (except Nov. 25, Dec. 23 and 30) are available from 7:45 a.m. to noon.