Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Undiagnosed Breast Clinic offers reassurance to patients
By Debra Gelbart
When someone discovers a lump in her breast, experiences breast pain or has a mammogram that shows something not normal, the Undiagnosed Breast Clinic at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert is there to reduce a patient’s anxiety and get answers quickly. A patient can self-refer, or her doctor can refer her to the Clinic.
At her appointment, she’ll likely meet with Shefali Birdi, M.D., an internal medicine doctor who came to Banner MD Anderson last September from the Cleveland Clinic. “I’ve always had an interest in oncology,” she said.
She has met with nearly 150 patients at the Clinic, who have come from all across the Valley and even as far away as northern California. While most patients are women, the Clinic has treated men, too.
Everything the patient needs to find out if there is the presence of disease is managed at the first appointment. Dr. Birdi examines the patient and determines what steps are needed next. If further imaging (such as a mammogram or ultrasound) is required, the patient can complete that within the facility right away. If a blood draw is needed, that, too, is done at the same location. Even a biopsy, if necessary, is performed there, usually on the same day of the appointment. And instead of waiting up to a week for the pathology results from a biopsy, the patient is informed within 24 to 48 hours. Then, further care can be delivered, if needed, at the same location. The Clinic is designed to diagnose breast cancer in its earliest stages.
“Same-day testing offers a tremendous amount of peace of mind to our patients,” Dr. Birdi said. “And providing all of our services under one roof is very reassuring.” Patients can expect the doctor to spend much more time with them than in other settings. “In a doctor’s office, you might expect a 15-minute appointment,” she said. “Here, I take the time to explain everything about the situation to the patient, talking to her about genetic counseling if appropriate—which we offer—and about the diagnostic procedures I’m recommending.”
If more imaging is needed, Dr. Birdi typically will ask Vilert Loving, M.D., a radiologist and director of breast imaging at Banner MD Anderson, to examine the mammogram or ultrasound images. If the imaging shows something abnormal, Dr. Loving can perform a biopsy. “A breast biopsy can take as little as 15 minutes,” he said. “If the biopsy is done in the morning,” he said, “we usually get the results back that afternoon. Then, I’ll discuss with the patient what her options are.”
Typically, patients visit the Clinic twice. The second visit is a follow-up and may include a referral to a specialist, or the patient may be referred back to her primary care doctor.
Dr. Birdi will be completing a fellowship in integrative medicine through the Tucson-based Center for Integrative Medicine, headed by Andrew Weil, M.D. “I hope this fellowship allows me to use a more integrative approach to help my patients take care of themselves,” she says.
To schedule an appointment at the Undiagnosed Breast Clinic, call (480) 256-6444.