Discover the Latest Innovations in Breast Cancer Treatment

Depending on the type of breast cancer diagnosed along with other factors such as your age and how much the cancer has spread, there are a variety of treatment options available to you.

We focus on breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, so our radiation oncologists, breast surgeons, oncologists, and other specialists are always at the forefront of adopting new treatment methods as well as proven methods.

There are two kinds of treatment for breast cancer:

  • Local Treatments: These remove, destroy, or control cancer cells in one area of the body. Surgery and radiation are local treatments.
  • Systemic Treatments: These destroy or control cancer cells throughout the whole body. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy are systemic treatments.

In treating breast cancer, options can often be used together in what is known as combination therapy—that most commonly includes some type of surgery. Treatment given before surgery to help shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove is called neoadjuvant treatment. Treatment used after surgery to kill any hidden cancer cells that may be left in the breast is called adjuvant treatment. Even if there is no sign of cancer, your doctor may still suggest adjuvant treatment to help lower the risk that cancer may come back or spread.

Types of Breast Cancer Treatments

Here are more details on the main types of breast cancer treatments.

  • Surgery: Surgery removes the tumor from your breast and is the most common way to treat breast cancer. In some cases, only the tumor is removed, and the rest of the breast is left intact. In other cases, the entire breast is removed. Your doctor may also use surgery to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under your arm. Knowing if the cancer has spread can help you and your doctor make decisions about other types of treatment you may need after surgery. After a breast is removed, surgery may be used to reconstruct a breast using your own tissue or an implant.
  • Radiation Therapy: This type of therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. It can be used to shrink a tumor before surgery, or it may be used after surgery to kill cancer cells that may remain in the breast or chest area.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment uses powerful medicines to kill cancer cells all through the body. It may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or destroy any cancer cells that remain after local treatments. Chemotherapy may also treat tumors that have grown in other places in the body. Breast cancer that has spread is usually treated with chemotherapy, which may be used with hormone therapy.
  • Hormone Therapy: This treatment stops the growth of cancer cells that rely on certain hormones. It can be delivered in two ways. One way to get hormone therapy is with medicines, such as tamoxifen. Another way is by removing the ovaries, which make hormones. Hormone therapy may be used after surgery to decrease the chance of breast cancer coming back, or a new cancer growing. It can also be used to treat cancer that has spread and is sometimes used with chemotherapy.
  • Targeted Therapy: This treatment uses medicines that target the changes in a cancer cell that make a tumor grow and spread. These medicines either destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells. The medicines tend to have fewer side effects that are less severe. The medicine trastuzumab may be used, which targets the protein HER-2.
  • Clinical Trials: Research is ongoing to find more ways to treat breast cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. We can put you in touch with information on the latest clinical trials aimed at discovering new ways to battle breast cancer.

Treatment By Stages

All cancers are classified under different stages. At each stage, a physician may recommend a different treatment plan to address the unique needs of each stage.

  • Stage 0 Breast Cancer - This is the earliest stage of breast cancer, and can often be treated relatively easily through lumpectomy surgery to remove the abnormal cells and breast tissue. In some cases, a mastectomy may be performed. Surgery is usually followed by radiation and hormone therapy to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading.
  • Stage I Breast Cancer - Stage I is still considered an early stage of breast cancer. Similar to stage 0, it's often treated through a lumpectomy or a mastectomy and then followed with chemotherapy or radiation, hormone, and targeted therapy treatments. Women with Stage I breast cancer are also good candidates for clinical trials.
  • Stage II Breast Cancer - In Stage II, cancer cells may also have spread to local lymph nodes. It is still standard to begin treatment with surgery, but will be followed with more aggressive chemotherapy and radiation, hormone, and targeted therapy treatments. Women with Stage II breast cancer are also good candidates for clinical trials.
  • Stage III Breast Cancer - In Stage III, cancer cells may have begun to spread outside of the breast and lymph nodes, but not far. In this stage, the primary treatment option is aggressive chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove through a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Additional radiation, hormone, and targeted therapy treatments will be recommended to prevent the further spread of cancer cells. Women with Stage III breast cancer are also good candidates for clinical trials.
  • Stage IV Breast Cancer - In this stage, cancer has spread to other parts of the body. At this stage, surgery & radiation may not be sufficient. The goal of treatment at this stage is to shrink and slow the cancer down. Physicians will recommend aggressive chemotherapy in tandem with hormone therapy. Other drugs may also be administered to treat some of the side effects of breast cancer at this stage. Women with Stage IV breast cancer are also good candidates for clinical trials.

Researchers are also studying other treatments, such as clinical trials and immunologic techniques that could help the body's immune system fight the cancer.

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