Breast cancer is treated in several ways. It depends on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread. People with breast cancer often get more than one kind of treatment. If you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, a multidisciplinary team of professionals reviews your case and makes recommendations. This team meets regularly to discuss proactive care planning for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.
Our doctors will help you understand the type of breast cancer you have and will explain your treatment options. They will explain the different types of procedures, discuss the associated risks and benefits, outline the anticipated recovery time required and describe how each option will affect your appearance. Our goal is to help you make an informed decision that is right for you and relative to the type of cancer you have.
Types of breast cancer treatment include:
- Surgery is an operation where doctors cut out and remove cancer tissue. Surgeons are doctors that perform operations.
- Chemotherapy uses special medicines, or drugs to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given directly into your veins, or sometimes both. Medical oncologists are doctors that treat cancers with medicines.
- Hormonal therapy is used to block cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
- Biological therapy works with your body's immune system to help it fight cancer or to control side effects from other cancer treatments. Biological therapy is different from chemotherapy, which attacks cancer cells directly.
- Radiation is the use of high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer cells. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is located. Radiation oncologists are doctors that treat cancers with radiation.
Breast reconstruction is a type of surgery for women who have had all or part of a breast removed. The surgery rebuilds the breast mound so that it is about the same size and shape as it was before. The nipple and the darker area around the nipple (areola) can also be added. Most women who have had a breast removed (mastectomy) can have reconstruction. Women who have had only the part of the breast around the cancer removed (lumpectomy) may not need reconstruction. Women needing breast reconstruction are referred to a plastic surgeon.
Breast cancer types that require hormone therapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapies will be prescribed and delivered by your medical oncologist. Your medical oncologist will monitor you from diagnosis throughout your care.
Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. Radiation for breast cancer treatment can be given after lumpectomy or mastectomy depending on the circumstances. Radiation attacks the DNA structure of cancer cells which affects their ability to grow. Radiation does affect healthy cells; however, healthy cells are able to repair themselves. Radiation therapy following surgery improves the chances that cancer will not return in that area. Therefore, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy along with other breast cancer treatments.
Surgery for Breast Cancer
Most women with breast cancer have some type of surgery. Surgery is often needed to remove a breast tumor. Options for this include breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy. The breast can be reconstructed at the same time as surgery or later on. Surgery is also used to check the lymph nodes under the arm for cancer spread. Options for this include a sentinel lymph node biopsy and an axillary (armpit) lymph node dissection.