Methodist’s Breast Center: Navigating the Way to Comprehensive, Quality Care

Mary Beth Arroyo, breast cancer survivor and Maria Socci, RN, Breast Care Navigator.

Mary Beth Arroyo, breast cancer survivor and Maria Socci, RN, Breast Care Navigator.

Photos by Nesossi Studios –

Since opening in 2009, the Breast Center at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital (MSLH) has continued to expand, linking women to the best care in the region. As the first full-service center of its kind in Fort Bend County, patients benefit from the full continuum of care.

The Breast Center provides a full array of diagnostic services, including breast MRI, diagnostic ultrasound, digital mammography, ductograms, fine needle aspirations, molecular breast imaging, MRI-guided biopsy, stereotactic biopsy and ultrasound biopsy. While all of these services are important in the process of providing state-of-the-art care, they can be overwhelming to patients. Fortunately, the Breast Center paves the way for patients with a unique program that makes navigating the maze of care easier.


Maria Socci, Breast Care Navigator

A Breast Care Navigator assists patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, serving as a resource expert, helping them understand treatment options, coordinating appointments and attending care conferences and discussions about the patient’s treatment. Maria Socci, a registered nurse with specialty training in oncology, serves as manager and breast care navigator for the Breast Center at MSLH.

Once a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, Maria gives them her contact information, because they are usually in a state of shock when they learn their diagnosis. “I help coordinate their first physician visit usually to a breast surgeon. That way, patients don’t worry about who to call. I call that surgeon, give them the information and they make an appointment that’s mutually convenient.”

Dr. Clive Shkedy, Radiation Oncologist; Maria Socci, RN, Breast Care Navigator; Mary Beth Arroyo, breast cancer survivor and Dr. Sandra Templeton, Breast Surgeon.

Dr. Clive Shkedy, Radiation Oncologist; Maria Socci, RN, Breast Care Navigator; Mary Beth Arroyo, breast cancer survivor and Dr. Sandra Templeton, Breast Surgeon.

Case files of patients are presented at a weekly breast conference with the breast surgeons, the plastic and reconstructive surgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists, along with the pathologists and the radiologists. “The whole team gets to know the patient, and the patient benefits from having multiple opinions contributed to their plan of care.”

Discussion of each patient includes topics such as: Is the patient best served by having surgery first or having chemotherapy first? Does the patient need radiation therapy? How will treatment affect future reconstruction surgery? Once the best course of treatment is determined by a team of experts, explains Maria, “The surgeon then has a plan of care with the input of multiple specialists.”

Maria’s continuum of care doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s just beginning.  “Our physicians are absolutely wonderful. I’ve gone to physician visits with my patients so I can hear what the patients are being told. Patients receive a lot of information. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, so I help them with things they may not understand, reinforce things that are important and help clarify information.”

“I try to take some of the burden off of the patient. They are overwhelmed. I’m somebody they can call, someone that can do the legwork for them when they feel tired, overwhelmed and emotional.”

And, Maria’s efforts go beyond the care that patients receive at the Breast Center. “Sometimes patients can’t muster the strength to call to get a wig or transportation. I have a dedicated phone line exclusively to help patients.”

Access to Maria is paramount to patients; it’s a lifeline to care. “The biggest challenge I see is the shock factor and how it immobilizes patients. They are new to the world of cancer. It’s so scary for them. They don’t know the information they need to know, so they don’t know what questions to ask.”

While Maria is always available for patients, she encourages patients to bring a support system. “For the initial physician visit, I instruct patients to bring a significant other – someone who can be there emotionally with them and to listen. I also instruct them to bring another person who can take copious notes.”

Mary Beth Arroyo, breast cancer survivor and Dr. Jorge Darcourt, Hematlogist/Oncologist.

Mary Beth Arroyo, breast cancer survivor and Dr. Jorge Darcourt, Hematlogist/Oncologist.

Mary Beth Arroyo’s Story

Mary Beth Arroyo, breast cancer patient, testifies to the convenience of Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Breast Center and Oncology Program.  “I had all of the resources that I needed in one place. My doctor’s office is in the hospital near the chemo treatment room and radiation center. I was able to make my appointments to see everyone in one day.”

After Mary Beth learned the results of her biopsy, Dr. Phillips, Medical Director of the Breast Center, told her Maria Socci, Breast Care Navigator, would contact her to help with her treatment plan. An hour later, Maria called Mary Beth. “When Maria introduced herself, I could tell from her voice that she was sincere in how she was going to help me. During that time, I was thinking so many things. I felt so lost and stunned.”

“It was really comforting having Maria because she really did navigate me through my treatment plan. She recommended a breast surgeon based on my needs and made all of the appointments. Maria is the very best thing that happened because I felt so lost and didn’t know what to do next.”

As Breast Care Navigator, Maria took Mary Beth to the next step. “Maria gave me her cell phone number and made herself available 24/7. What really helped me was that Maria also paired me with someone who was in the same situation as me. We exchanged notes such as, my muscles and bones are aching, is this what I should feel right now, and she would say, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m feeling right now.’ I didn’t feel so alone. Someone else was feeling exactly what I was at that very moment.”

Being there from the moment she was diagnosed made a huge difference in Mary Beth’s treatment. “The important impact of Maria’s role as navigator is that she’s there right away. She tells you what lies ahead and walks you through it.”

“Maria treated me like everyone else even though I have a medical background. She told me if I was going to feel pain and explained what was going on in my body. It was a relief for me to know what was going on, what to anticipate, and that someone was there to guide me through everything.”

Today, Mary Beth continues her journey as a breast cancer survivor, but fortunately for her, she will never be alone in the process.  Whatever the future brings, Maria will be at her side helping her navigate the best possible care, close to work and close to home.

For more information or for a second opinion, please call Maria at 281-276-8989 or email To schedule a mammogram at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Breast Center, call 281-242-PINK (7465).

Save the Date: Pretty In Pink

Join us for Pretty in Pink, an exciting community event to be held at Sugar Land Town Square on Friday, October 11, 2013 from 6 – 9:30 pm.  Methodist Sugar Land Hospital and the Fort Bend Junior Service League have partnered again with breast surgeons Sandra Templeton, M.D. and Kelly Dempsey, M.D., to host this event. One hundred percent of the donated proceeds will be used to assist Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s cancer patients with personal costs associated with all types of cancer.

This event features something for everyone. There will be live music, a moonwalk, face painting, magician and balloon artists, and more. After sundown, Town Square will be lit up in pink to honor all cancer survivors.

For more information and sponsorship opportunities, call Leena Taneja at 281-274-8097.