Scripps Health continues to expand its offerings throughout the county, recently announcing the expansion of its minimally invasive robotic surgery program to Scripps Mercy Chula Vista and launching San Diego County’s first dedicated clinic for patients who have inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare and aggressive form of the disease.

Clinic for Inflammatory Breast Cancer

San Diego has recently received its first-ever clinic for patients who have inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare and aggressive form of the disease.

Located at Scripps MD Anderson’s Torrey Pines Mesa facility, the specialized, multidisciplinary clinic is geared specifically to diagnose, treat and monitor IBC patients. Physicians at the new clinic also will be active in educating the public and primary care physicians about the signs and symptoms of this often-misdiagnosed disease.

“IBC differs greatly from other forms of breast cancer in a number of ways, so it requires a dedicated approach that focuses on a unique set of challenges,” said Thomas Buchholz, MD, medical director of Scripps MD Anderson and a lead physician in its IBC clinic. “It’s often hard to diagnose and it can spread fast, so it’s critical that patients receive prompt treatment from experienced specialists working together as an integrated team.”

Unlike more common forms of breast cancer, IBC typically is not detected during an exam and often goes undetected by a mammogram or ultrasound. With IBC, cancer cells grow in sheets that spread through the breast. IBC symptoms vary from person to person and may include breast swelling and tenderness, with skin that is reddened and thickened, sometimes dimpled in texture like an orange peel. Other symptoms can include itching, warmth, pain and flattened or inverted nipples.

Patients with these symptoms are frequently thought to have infections and are treated with a course of antibiotics. For this reason, women with IBC often have a delayed diagnosis of their disease.

Scripps Inflammatory Breast Cancer Center

According to the National Cancer Institute, IBC accounts for 1% to 5% of all breast cancers. It progresses so rapidly – often in a matter of weeks or months – that it is almost always diagnosed either at stage 3 or 4, depending on how far the cancer cells have spread. Due in part to the delayed diagnosis, survival rates for IBC patients are generally lower compared to other breast cancers.

IBC also tends to be diagnosed at younger ages, compared to other forms of breast cancer. It appears to be more common in African-American women than women of other races and ethnicities. IBC tumors are frequently hormone receptor negative, a biologically more aggressive subtype that does not respond favorably to hormone therapies.

At Scripps MD Anderson’s IBC clinic, experts in medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery, pathology and radiology form a multidisciplinary team. Working together, they are able to provide the patient with a diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Doctors involved in the Scripps MD Anderson IBC clinic have specialized training and clinical experience in diagnosing and treating IBC. They also interact regularly with their counterparts at the IBC clinic at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, adding a deeper level of expertise to each patient’s care.

Another important aspect of the new Scripps MD Anderson IBC clinic is its integration and collaboration with MD Anderson’s Morgan Welch IBC clinic in Houston. The Scripps IBC physician team will have the opportunity to review cases under their care with colleagues in Houston.

The clinic is open to both newly diagnosed and previously treated patients and is also available for second opinions.  More information on the IBC clinic is available by calling 1-800-SCRIPPS or by visiting

Patient-centered, Physician-led Robotic Surgery Program

Scripps Health has expanded its Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery Program to Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista, which now offers general surgery services using the da Vinci Surgical System.

“We are proud to bring this advanced surgery technology to our patients in the South Bay community,” said Hugo Barrera, MD,the program’s clinical leader at Scripps Chula Vista. “In many ways, this technology represents the future of surgery, and we are fortunate to offer it as a way to expand the high-quality surgical services offered at Scripps Chula Vista.”

Robotic surgery is a minimally invasive alternative to open surgery and can improve the patient experience by reducing blood loss, lowering pain, accelerating recovery times and limiting complications associated with traditional open surgery.

Scripps Chula Vista is part of a patient-centered, physician-led robotic surgery program at Scripps Health that has completed about 10,000 procedures since its launch 11 years ago. The hospital initially will offer general surgery procedures focused on the abdomen and digestive tract, such as gallbladder surgery, hernia repair, stomach surgery, spleen surgery, colon surgery and pancreas surgery.

These procedures, as well as hysterectomy, prostatectomy, and mitral valve repair, are available through the Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery Program at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas and Scripps Green Hospital.

“Scripps is committed to bringing advanced minimally invasive surgery services to all of our patients throughout San Diego County,” saidCarol Salem, MD,medical director of the Scripps Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery Program. “With this tremendous technology in our operating rooms, our highly skilled surgeons can offer precision robotics combined with personalized care.”

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