After your breast cancer is initially diagnosed, Roper St. Francis breast care experts work as a team to fully characterize the type of tumor and determine how advanced it is, also called “staging” your cancer. This helps us tailor your care to the specific characteristics of your disease. Each patient’s treatment plan is customized depending on the size and location of the tumor and the type of cancer cells.
Our primary goal is to get rid of the cancer cells, and to do so with the least discomfort and disruption to your quality of life. This requires a conversation about risks and benefits of various treatment options, and certainly it requires discussing your personal wishes, concerns and needs. We take all these things into careful consideration as our team devises the best treatment plan for each individual patient.
Roper St. Francis Cancer Care holds a regular Cancer Conference in which cases are presented to a multidisciplinary team of cancer experts for collegial input and treatment plan evaluation.
Breast cancer treatment is either local, which is used to target/control the cancer in the breast (examples are surgery or radiation therapy), or systemic, which is treatment aimed at controlling or eradicating cancer cells throughout the body (as with chemotherapy or hormone therapy). Typically a breast cancer treatment plan will include some or all of the following therapies: radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, reconstructive surgery and/or clinical trials.
Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
Roper St. Francis uses the most advanced technologies that deliver high energy rays (photons and electrons) targeted to destroy cancer cells with high precision and minimal side effects. We offer an integrated radiation program following breast reconstruction to kill cells left behind after surgery, as well as an intraoperative program for older women with very early breast cancer.
Our comprehensive approach to breast cancer surgery includes innovative breast-conserving treatments, breast reconstruction options following mastectomy and the latest approaches to preventing lymphedema, a common side effect of lymph node removal. If your breast cancer requires surgical treatment, options may include:
A lumpectomy is the surgical removal of only the cancerous part, or lump, of the breast and the “margins” or areas of normal tissue immediately adjacent to the tumor. Also called a partial mastectomy, lumpectomy is usually followed by radiation therapy, and may or may not include removal of the lymph nodes.
A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast, but typically not the muscle tissue below the breast. Mastectomy may be followed by immediate or delayed breast reconstruction by a plastic surgeon, and women who undergo mastectomy may or may not also require radiation therapy.
Types of mastectomy include:
- Total or simple mastectomy: removal of entire breast, including nipple, areola and overlying skin.
- Modified radical mastectomy: removal of entire breast as above, including the lining over the chest muscles and possibly the axillary lymph nodes and in some cases part of the chest wall.
- Radical mastectomy: All of the above, including the chest muscles. Thanks to advances in surgical options, radical mastectomies are rarely performed today, reserved only for cases when cancer has spread to chest muscles.
- Skin-sparing mastectomy: Breast tissue, nipple and areola are surgically removed but the skin over the breast is saved. This procedure can be used when breast reconstruction is performed immediately after the mastectomy.
- Nipple-sparing mastectomy: Also sometimes called a total skin-sparing mastectomy, this is similar to skin-sparing but preserves the nipple and areola.
Roper St. Francis breast cancer surgeons utilize paravertebral block, an anesthesia technique that reduces surgical stress and increases the number of natural killer cells, which in turn helps reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.
Learn more about surgery for breast cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy is the use of medicines to kill cancerous cells, usually delivered intravenously (in the veins). Chemotherapy can be before surgery (neoadjuvant) or after surgery (adjuvant). Roper St. Francis Breast Care offers comfortable outpatient infusion suites at our Cancer Center and our oncologists’ offices. At RSF Cancer Care, chemotherapy is administered by experienced oncology-certified nurses.
Learn more about chemotherapy for treatment of breast cancer.
Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
For breast cancers that are hormone receptor positive, hormone therapy can block estrogen from “feeding” the cancer and help stop the cancer from growing or spreading.
Learn more about hormone therapy for breast cancer.
Preventive Breast Cancer Treatments
Depending on your risk factors, genetic make-up and family history, you may be at high risk of breast cancer. Your doctor might suggest certain medications to reduce your risk, close surveillance with regular physical exams and imaging, or you may consider undergoing prophylactic surgery to remove the breasts.
Roper St. Francis Cancer Care is a charter member of the Levine Cancer Institute, which means our patients, including our breast cancer patients, have access to the nation’s most promising leading-edge clinical trials.