Breast Cancer Treatments

Our goal is to help you rid your body of as much cancer as possible and stop the disease from coming back.

Standard Breast Cancer Treatments

Treatment decisions are based on:

  • Type of breast cancer you have
  • Size of your tumor
  • Whether your cancer has spread to other parts of your body
  • Whether your cancer has receptors for estrogen or progesterone hormones or for human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2).
  • Your overall health and personal preferences

You can also talk with your doctor about whether clinical trials would be appropriate for you.

Breast Cancer Surgery

Decisions about the type and extent of surgery depend on your condition, medical history and personal preferences.

  • Lumpectomy usually removes the least amount of your breast tissue. When cancer is tiny, in an early stage and has not spread, your surgeon can remove the tumor along with a small amount of surrounding tissue. Lumpectomies may be followed by radiation or other therapies, depending on the medical evaluation of your cancer.
  • Breast conserving surgery is designed to remove the cancer plus surrounding normal tissue, but how much of your breast is removed depends on the size and location of your tumor or tumors.
  • In a skin sparing mastectomy, your surgeon will remove all of your breast tissue plus your nipple, areola and targeted lymph nodes under your arm, but not your breast skin. This is an option chosen by many women who plan to have breast reconstructive surgery.
  • A simple or total mastectomy removes the entire breast and designated lymph nodes but leaves the chest wall intact. A radical mastectomy is similar, but involves removal of more lymph nodes.
  • A bilateral mastectomy means both of your breasts are removed, along with a larger number of lymph nodes. This option is sometimes chosen by women who only have cancer in one breast, but who have genetic or other risk factors that make it likely that the cancer will occur in the second breast or spread to other areas of her body.
  • Reconstructive surgery, including implants or tissue transplants from other areas of the patient’s body, may be done at the same time as the mastectomy or when all subsequent treatments are complete.

Following surgery, patients have radiation therapy, chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Breast Cancer Radiation

The need for radiation therapy depends on type of surgery, whether cancer has spread to lymph nodes or elsewhere, and sometimes on age. Tumors that are large or involve your skin may also need radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy usually begins several weeks after surgery, so you first have time to heal. It may be external or internal.

The goal is to destroy or seriously damage the cancer while hurting as few healthy cells as possible. The procedure itself is painless, but sometimes there are side effects such as swelling, redness and fatigue.

Breast Cancer Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs that are administered orally or intravenously to kill cancer cells and reduce the chance that they will return. Sometimes in the case of large tumors, chemotherapy is used before surgery to make your cancer shrink and be easier to remove. Chemotherapy also is used to kill cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of your body.

Side effects of chemotherapy may include fatigue, changes in weight, flu-like symptoms, bruising, hair loss and digestive problems. Nausea and vomiting can also be a problem. If you experience any of these, talk with your doctor. There are medicines that can ease and sometimes even eliminate the side effects of chemo.

Hormone and Targeted Therapies

Depending on the type of cancer, your doctor may recommend hormone therapies that are designed to starve the cancer of the hormones that fuel tumor growth. Targeted therapy drugs attack the cancer cells and leave most healthy cells alone.

Psychosocial Care

Mental and emotional strength plays a major role in physical health. The Breast Cancer Center offers options such as a yoga class and personalized information about healthy diet, exercise, support groups and family dynamics – all of which impact recovery and optimal outcomes.

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