What Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among American women. Advances in breast cancer treatment mean many women today can expect to beat the disease and maintain their physical appearance.
When you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, we understand it can be a very overwhelming time filled with questions and concerns for both you and your loved ones. As part of your care here, there will be a lot to learn. You will be making decisions in a seemingly short period of time. We know that this can be difficult and want you to know that we are here to help.
Our cancer center is a team of dedicated professionals, committed to helping you and your family through this season of your life. Our knowledgeable staff is available to you at any time throughout your treatment to answer any and all questions you may have concerning your diagnosis, treatment, and general health. We look forward to the opportunity to come alongside you and your family in any way possible along this journey.
The type of surgery you have depends on your individual case. Surgical options include:
- Lumpectomy: The tumor along with a margin of healthy tissue is removed. Additionally, sentinel lymph node(s) are often removed. This is known as breast conservation therapy.
- Mastectomy: All breast tissue is removed. In many cases, breast skin is spared. Nipple-sparing techniques are sometimes an option.
- Breast reconstruction: The breast(s) shape is rebuilt after a total mastectomy.
- Oncoplastic: The tumor is removed and the breast is reshaped to prevent contour deformities.
Chemotherapy is typically used to treat patients with large, locally advanced tumors or if positive lymph nodes. Women with an early stage of the disease may have chemotherapy if they are determined to be “high-risk” even if sentinel lymph nodes are negative.
Before surgery (neo-adjuvant): To reduce the size of large tumors and destroy cancer cells. This may enable a lumpectomy rather than mastectomy. Survival rates are the same regardless of chemotherapy being used before or after surgery.
After surgery (adjuvant): To destroy remaining cancer cells and prevent the disease from spreading.
Radiation therapy is used to destroy cancer cells that remain after breast-sparing surgery. Radiation therapy for breast will often be paired with a lumpectomy surgery.
Advanced radiation therapy techniques and technologies can target the tumor while sparing healthy tissue. These include intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy.
Targeted therapy prevents cancer cells from dividing or destroys cancer cells directly. The drug Herceptin® is a targeted therapy for tumors that produce too much of the HER2 protein.
Hormone therapy can add, block, or remove hormones from the body to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. A common type of hormone therapy is:
Selective estrogen receptor modulators: Drugs that block estrogen from reaching cancer cells. Tamoxifen is a commonly used hormone therapy to prevent breast cancer recurrence.
Lymphatic therapy is a technique which provides manual lymphatic drainage of the breast or chest wall. This promotes normal lymphatic flow and reduces post-surgical and radiation swelling. It may help prevent lymphedema, and lessens symptoms that are caused by tissue scarring in and around radiated tissue.