Breast Cancer Services at Trinitas Regional Medical Center

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth and uncontrollable division of cells in the breast area. Once the cells begin to grow uncontrollably, they can invade nearby healthy tissue and destroy them. This process usually begins with surrounding lymph nodes under the armpit and tissue under the breastbone and collarbone. It is possible that a tumor may form. Benign tumors are not cancerous -- they do not strike surrounding tissue and spread throughout the body. Malignant tumors, however, have the capacity to grow beyond their original location and into other tissues.

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According to the American Cancer Society:

  • Each year, more than 200,000 women in this country learn they have breast cancer.
  • Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among American women and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States (second to lung cancer).
  • More women are surviving the disease than ever before, thanks to advances in diagnosis and treatment, and earlier detection.
  • Right now, just over 2 million breast cancer survivors are living in the United States.

Click here to visit the American Cancer Society

Risk Factors

It has not yet been confirmed why breast cancer occurs, but certain factors are known to increase the possibility of developing the disease.

Controllable risk factors (lifestyle-based):

  • Diet: A link between breast cancer and a diet high in fat has been suggested.
  • Physical inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle can be potentially dangerous to the health, as it increases the risk of developing different diseases, including breast cancer.
  • Obesity: A severely overweight individual is at increased risk.
  • Alcohol consumption

Uncontrollable risk factors:

  • Age: The older a woman is, the higher her chance she has of developing breast cancer.
  • Race: White women tend to develop breast cancer more than African-American women; however, African-American women are more likely to die of this cancer because their cancers are often diagnosed later and at an advanced stage when they are more difficult to treat and cure. Although it is possible to contract the disease, Asian, Hispanic and Native American women have less of a risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Family or personal history of breast cancer
  • Early start of menstruation (before age 12)
  • Late menopause (after age 55)
  • Reproductive history: If a woman delivers her first baby after the age of 30 or never has children, she may face an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Common Symptoms

Breast cancer usually develops without any noticeable symptoms. It is, however, advisable to perform monthly breast self-examinations since the discovery of breast lumps can often be a sign of trouble. Scheduling an appointment with a doctor is recommended if one of the following warning signs is experienced:

  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Lump or thickening of tissue in the breast or armpit
  • Dimpled or pulling of the skin over the breast
  • Nipple discharge
  • Retraction of the nipple
  • Scaliness of the nipple
  • Pain or tenderness

What Are the Goals of Chemotherapy Treatment?

  • Destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells that have metastasized to other parts of the body.
  • Shrink the cancer tumors before surgery.
  • Relieve symptoms caused by cancer.

Screening and Diagnosis

The chance of survival significantly increases when breast cancer is found early. Performing self breast exams, regular screening mammograms and clinical breast exams are a good way to participate in the early detection of breast cancer.

  • Breast self-exam - Regular breast exams can help women become familiar with the way their breasts normally look and feel, making it easier to notice any changes. A few days after a normal menstrual period is the best time to perform a breast self-exam, when the breasts are no longer swollen or tender.
  • Mammogram - A mammogram is a procedure that uses x-rays to detect changes in breast tissues. It can detect cancer and other tumors before a woman would be able to feel it in her monthly self-examination. If there is history in the family or personal past of the disease, it is advisable to begin annual mammograms at age 40 or before.
  • Clinical breast exam - This is an examination of the breasts performed by a health care professional.

Schedule a mammogram today!
Call (908) 994-5984.

Stages of Breast Cancer

If a breast cancer diagnosis is made, doctors perform additional tests to determine the stage of the cancer. At this time, it is also established if the cancer has spread and exactly how far. Staging the cancer is an important step in developing an appropriate treatment plan.

Stage 0: This stage is used to describe non-invasive breast cancer. In other words, there is no evidence of cancerous cells invading neighboring healthy tissue.

Stage 1: This is an early stage of invasive breast cancer but still confined to the breast. Lymph nodes are not involved in this stage.

Stage II:

  • The breast tumor measures less than 3/4-inch, and the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm; or
  • The tumor ranges in size from 3/4-inch to 2 inches and may have advanced to nearby lymph nodes; or
  • The tumor is larger than 2 inches but has not spread to lymph nodes under the arm.

Stage III: The tumor may be large at this stage but the cancer is still confined to the breast and nearby lymph nodes. Stage III is divided into two subcategories:

In Stage IIIA, the tumor in the breast measures 2 inches or less, the cancer is present in underarm lymph nodes, and the lymph nodes are attached to each other or to other structures. In other cases of Stage IIIA breast cancer, the tumor exceeds 2 inches and cancer is present in the underarm lymph nodes.

In Stage IIIB, the tumor may have spread to lymph nodes inside the chest wall along the breastbone.

Stage IV: This stage includes cancer that has metastasized to other parts of the body, frequently the bones, lungs or brain.

Recurrent: This is the name for cancer that has returned after treatment. The breasts, chest wall or other parts of the body may be affected in the recurrent stage.

Common Treatment Options

Thanks to medical advances, patients have more treatment options than ever before. Breast cancer is incredibly treatable with high survival rates.

Treatment options for breast cancer depend on the type, stage and size of the tumor. General health and personal preferences also play a role in the type of treatment a patient will endure. The goal of treatment is to safeguard healthy tissue while killing the tumor where it originated, as well as any other cancer cells that have spread throughout the body.

Treatment options include:


It is common that patients with breast cancer undergo surgery to remove the cancerous tissue in the breast. Some axillary lymph nodes (lymph nodes in the armpit) are also extracted to see if the breast cancer has spread. Types of surgery include:

Wide Excision Lumpectomy - This type of surgery removes the breast tumor and a small amount of surrounding normal tissue.

Mastectomy - This is the surgical removal of the entire breast. There are three different types of mastectomies:

  • Simple or total mastectomy: Surgeons do not cut away any lymph nodes or muscle tissue.
  • Modified radical mastectomy: Surgeons remove the breast and some armpit lymph nodes.
  • Radical mastectomy: Surgeons remove the breast, axillary lymph nodes and chest wall muscles under the breast.

Breast reconstruction surgery can be considered after a mastectomy. A breast implant may be used to reconstruct the breast at the same time as the mastectomy, or anytime thereafter.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a non-surgical method of treatment of cancer. This procedure uses penetrating beams of high-energy waves called x-rays or gamma rays. Radiation destroys tumor cells by destroying their genetic material, making it impossible for these cells to continue to grow. There are two types of radiation therapy:

  • External beam radiation therapy: Specialized medical equipment is used to deliver radiation to the tumor site from outside the body.
  • Internal radiation therapy: Radioactive material is inserted in the body near the cancer cells (also called implant radiation or brachytherapy).
  • MammoSite radiotherapy: This is usually performed on women who are in early breast cancer stage. Radioactive seeds are used but are only left in temporarily and taken out after each treatment. This procedure is completed in five days rather than the usual six weeks of daily radiation therapy women endure.

The type of radiation therapy given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.


Chemotherapy treatment uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by preventing the cells from dividing. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, chemotherapy drugs can be taken orally or by injection. Discussing treatment protocols with a treatment professional is important to become aware of any possible side effects.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is a type of treatment that eliminates hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing. Because some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow, drugs, surgery, or radiation therapy are used to either reduce the production of hormones or block them from working if tests show that the cancerous cells have receptors.

Breast Cancer in Men

Although it is unusual for men to develop breast cancer, it can be found in those between 60 and 70 years of age. Breast cancer is an extremely rare cause of death in men.

Patient Stories

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