UCSF Breast Care Center's Shelley Hwang, MD, named "Local Hero"

By Eve Harris

The eighth annual Susan G. Komen Foundation “local hero” award for 2004 has been given to UCSF surgeon Shelley Hwang, MD, for her outstanding contribution in the fight against breast cancer.

Hwang, a Tiburon mother of three, treats patients and conducts research at the UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center. The award recognizes her exceptional skill in oncology surgery, research and patient care.

A UCSF assistant professor of surgery, Hwang has earned accolades from both patients and peers for her devotion to her patients. “Not only is she an incredibly caring, compassionate physician, she is truly an excellent surgeon,” said Breast Care Center Director Laura Esserman, MD, MBA.

“She has a deep passion to make a difference in women’s lives,” said Deborah Hamolsky, RN, MS. Hamolsky, an oncology nurse for more than 20 years, has worked alongside her since Hwang arrived at the Breast Care Center in 1998.

In addition to her responsibilities for patient care, Hwang is the principal investigator in a study of primary hormonal therapy for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).  Some 50,000 women each year in the U.S. are diagnosed with DCIS, which is generally detected and treated in the same way as invasive cancer. However, in the course of treatment only about 25 percent of DCIS lesions are found to be aggressive enough to grow into invasive cancer.

“We are testing a new approach: starting with hormonal therapy (letrozole or
tamoxifen) to see if we can shrink or reverse DCIS,” said Hwang. A safe, effective hormonal therapy option would allow thousands of women each year to avoid over-treatment while remaining assured of a low risk of future breast cancer, she added.

Hwang is also studying the role of sentinel node biopsy in breast cancer and the quality of life in individuals undergoing reconstructive breast surgery.

The Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center provides interdisciplinary care designed to meet the complex needs of patients with breast cancer. Surgeons and radiation and medical oncologists work together as a team, along with a psychologist, genetic counselors and nurse practitioners who specialize in breast health. The Center is the clinical service of the Breast Oncology Program of the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center.