Breast Cancer


Breast Cancer Care

When you have cancer, you need a team of support. A diagnosis of breast cancer can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone. We are here for you every step of the way through your journey - from diagnosis to treatment and on to survivorship.

Cancer treatments have progressed significantly in recent years and survivor rates have increased as a result.

Coordinated Team Approach

We provide a coordinated team approach that includes the latest treatments in surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. And we include each patient as part of our team as an active partner in every step of care. It is our goal for patients to be involved in the decisions related to care and to always know the next step.

We want to help you feel healthy again. In addition to the critical medical treatments that you will receive, we offer health and wellness services that treat the whole body and mind to promote physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. 

Learn more about our breast cancer services and what you can expect during your treatment journey. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at 231-392-8400 or

What is Breast Cancer?

The breast is made of milk-producing glands called lobules and ducts that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple. Breast tissue also contains fat and connective tissue, lymph nodes, and blood vessels. 

Cancer begins when healthy cells in the breast change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass or sheet of cells called a tumor. 

There are two types of tumors:

  • Cancerous - The tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body.
  • Benign - The tumor can grow but will not spread.

The most common type of breast cancer begins in the ducts and is called ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer also can begin in other tissues in the breast. Breast cancer that has spread from where it began in the ducts or lobules to surrounding tissue is called invasive breast cancer.

In the United States, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer. Each year, there are about 230,000 new cases in women.

Men also can have breast cancer. About 2,300 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in men each year.

For More Information 

You can find trusted information about breast cancer treatment at these websites:

What to Expect

Cancer treatment begins with a diagnosis. Tests may include a mammogram, diagnostic imaging, and biopsy to help your care team determine your type of cancer and develop an individualized treatment plan. 

We understand this phase can be very difficult as you are waiting for answers. Our goal at Munson Healthcare is to move you through the diagnostic process as quickly as possible in order to minimize the emotional strain.

Your Treatment Plan

We offer a coordinated approach to care that varies based on your specific needs. 

When a breast cancer is found, our breast center nurses and nurse navigator will help set up a consultation for you with a surgeon. 

After meeting with you, your surgeon will present your case for discussion at our team’s weekly Breast Cancer Conference. At this meeting, our team will discuss your individualized care plan including treatment, referrals, and follow-up meetings. Our Breast Cancer Conference team includes:

  • Medical oncologist
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Pathologist
  • General surgeon
  • Plastic surgeon
  • Radiologist
  • Cancer genetics nurse practitioner
  • Research nurse
  • Breast health nurse coordinator 
  • Oncology financial navigator

After this meeting, you will meet with your surgeon to discuss surgical options. Typically, you also will meet with a medical oncologist to discuss hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, and/or chemotherapy. You also may be referred to a radiation oncologist to discuss radiation therapy options. 

Treatment for your cancer will depend upon the type, location, and stage of the cancer. Other factors that impact treatment decisions include your age and other health conditions. 

Our physicians provide the latest in treatments. When more complex treatments are necessary, we work closely with specialists across the state and nation.

Throughout the process, our breast program coordinator and nurse navigator will be in touch with you to answer your questions and be certain you are informed about the next steps in your care. 

Health and Wellness at the Cowell Family Cancer Center

We believe that everything matters in cancer treatment.

The Health and Wellness Suite at the Cowell Family Cancer Center in Traverse City offers space for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing through integrative therapies, meditation, exercise, nutrition, and the arts. 

Services are available for patients, staff, family members, caregivers, and the community.

Services include:

The Cowell Family Cancer Center Support Team

Genetics Consultation

Breast cancer can be associated with certain hereditary gene changes that may increase the risk of developing cancer. These gene changes can be passed on to family members. 

Depending on your family history and personal risk factors, you may be referred to our cancer genetics clinic for a consultation. Cancer genetics counseling also is available at Charlevoix Hospital.

During this meeting, you will talk to our nurse practitioner who is certified in cancer genetics to discuss your family’s risk and genetic testing options available. If certain criteria are met, testing may be recommended. It is offered through our clinic. 

Support and Guidance

Our care coordination team is here to support you and includes a nurse and nurse practitioner who will ensure that your next steps are planned and communicated. 

Our compassionate team also includes a dietitian, a social worker, palliative/supportive care providers, and financial navigators to ensure that your individual needs are addressed. 

For more information regarding Cowell Family Cancer Center services or to be transferred to a regional network facility, call 231-392-8400 and speak with one of our resource specialists. 

Availability of support services varies according to the specific regional cancer network location.

Treatment Locations

Cowell Family Cancer Center

Patients will find breast cancer treatment and resources at the Cowell Family Cancer Center on the Munson Medical Center campus in Traverse City. This state-of-the-art cancer center opened in 2016 and provides most cancer services, including diagnosis, treatment, follow-up, and supportive care.

Smith Family Breast Health Center

For most patients, initial diagnostic testing and consultations are scheduled at our Smith Family Breast Health Center in Traverse City. This beautifully designed, patient-centered facility has achieved the “Breast Imaging Center of Excellence” designation by the American College of Radiology. 

The Smith Family Breast Health Center and breast cancer program is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). Our roster of providers includes surgeons, oncologists, and support staff who have committed to the standards set by the breast program leadership committee and American College of Surgeons.             

Other Locations

Medical oncology follow-up visits and chemotherapy may be available to you close to home through our regional cancer network.

Clinical Trials for Breast Cancer

Talk to your doctor if you want to consider participating in a clinical trial. It can give you early access to the newest treatments before they are available to the general population. 

Depending on the clinical trial, part of your care may be located in Traverse City.

With a strong focus on research and discovery of new cancer treatments, Munson Healthcare has participated in cancer clinical trials for more than 30 years through the National Cancer Institute. This program offers our patients the chance to participate in large, national research trials while remaining at home in northern Michigan.

To learn more about clinical trials for breast cancer, visit these websites or talk to your doctor: