There are many types of benign breast conditions and types of breast cancer. We offer a range of treatments. You and your doctor will discuss the best course of treatment for your condition, what you can expect for results and what you may experience as side effects.
We will discuss the available therapies for any benign breast condition you may have. These may include observation, surgery, antibiotics, or watchful monitoring.
Benign conditions are never treated with chemotherapy. Some types of breast cancer require chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs given intravenously or by mouth to kill cancer cells anywhere in your body. In some cases, we use chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor or reduce the chance of the cancer spreading beyond your breast. We can also use chemotherapy after surgery to reduce the chance of the cancer returning.
Your team of medical oncologists and surgeons work together to reduce the:
- Amount of surgery you may need to remove the cancer
- Risk of cancer recurrence
Your medical oncologist meets with you to discuss your treatment options and potential side effects. They will continue meeting with you throughout treatment. Whenever possible, we coordinate your treatment at locations closest to your home to minimize your travel during therapy.
Breast oncology clinical pharmacy services
When you begin chemotherapy, you can meet with one of our clinical oncology pharmacists to learn more about the drugs. Our pharmacists have specialized training in oncology and supportive care management. Meetings can cover possible adverse effects and ways to handle these if they do happen. As part of the new chemotherapy teaching appointment, the pharmacist will also help you treat and even prevent nausea and vomiting caused by the chemotherapy. We look forward to meeting you and managing your anti-nausea medications together based on how well they're working, how able you are to take them, and how affordable they are.
We offer access to a large portfolio of clinical trials. Clinical trials test cutting-edge and promising diagnostic and treatment techniques that are still being evaluated by clinical scientists. The clinical trials you may take part in include:
- National clinical trials
- Our own physician- or scientist-designed clinical trials
As we develop your treatment plan, we will assess whether you are eligible to participate in any of our clinical trials. Many participants in clinical trials find contributing to improved cancer care personally rewarding. We will discuss with you the benefits and risks of participating and answer any questions you may have.
Many types of breast cancer are fueled by hormones in your body. Hormone therapy is a pill, sometimes in combination with an injection, that reduces estrogen levels in the body or blocks the action of estrogen on breast cancer cells. This is a common therapy used before or after surgery and sometimes after chemotherapy. It significantly reduces the chance of breast cancer coming back (called recurrence). Your medical oncologist will consider whether you need hormone therapy based on the analysis of your tumor cells.
Immunotherapy is a type of medication that helps your own immune system detect and kill cancer cells. Pathological analysis of the biopsy taken when you were diagnosed—or after surgery—helps us to predict whether the type of cancer in your breast would respond to immunotherapy.
Lymph node evaluation
The presence of cancer in the lymph nodes is associated with a higher risk of having cancer cells in other parts of your body. To determine the extent of cancer, your surgeon may order additional imaging. Your surgeon may also remove one or more lymph nodes at the time of surgery. If there is cancer in your lymph nodes, you may need additional surgery. If there is no evidence of cancer in your lymph nodes before surgery, you may not need any lymph node surgery, or you may have a sentinel lymph node biopsy. This uses a special labeling substance injected into the breast prior to surgery to help identify at-risk lymph nodes. During your early appointments, your surgeon will discuss with you whether lymph nodes should be evaluated and the best way to do so for your circumstances.
Our oncology dietitians can meet with you for a personal nutrition consultation to help you:
- Improve your nutrition
- Cope with change
- Create a plan
- Evaluate herbal and vitamin therapies, if desired
- Find ways to improve your appetite
Physical therapy and exercise
Exercise enhances recovery from surgery, decreases side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, strengthens bones and helps to reduce your risk of cancer recurrence. We offer multiple exercise and nutrition programs, depending on your location. Our Complementary Care Program can help you find options that work for you.
You may experience limited arm or shoulder mobility after treatment. Exercises after surgery can help recover shoulder mobility and a return to normal activities. We might also recommend physical therapy to treat pain or swelling in your breast, arm or body. We will work with you to find rehabilitation services close to your home.
If you have swelling in your arm, breast, or fingers on the side you had surgery, you may also need an evaluation for lymphedema.
If surgery is part of your treatment plan, we will work with you to evaluate your options and preferences related to your appearance and how you move through the world after your cancer treatment. Your options may include breast reconstruction or other procedures that can help you feel good about how you look. You may choose to consult one of our plastic surgeons before surgery to better understand your options.
Radiation therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be effective in destroying the DNA of the cancer cells and preventing the return of cancer. Many people with breast cancer will receive a recommendation to have radiation therapy after breast surgery. Our radiation oncologists are experienced in advanced radiation treatments for breast cancer and will plan your treatment schedule and follow your progress. Radiation is typically given once a day, 5 days a week, for 1 to 6 weeks.
Side effects and complications
Many of these treatments can have side effects or other complications. Throughout your active treatment, we will monitor you closely. In many cases, we will be able to offer you options to manage issues that arise during treatment. If you have a concern, please reach us through the myDH patient portal or contact our office.
Innovation is about problem-solving.
Surgeon Richard J. Barth, Jr., MD wanted to help find a more accurate method of obtaining breast cancer lumpectomies. Some patients would need a second surgery when the first one did not obtain the full cancer target. Dr. Barth recognized the issue was about placement and imagery. This problem-solving led to something called the Breast Cancer Locator.
Many people with breast cancer have surgery. Based on your diagnosis, anatomy and preferences, we may discuss more than one procedure with you.
These may include:
- Lymph node surgery: Removal of one or more nearby lymph nodes from the armpit
- Mastectomy: Removal of the whole breast
- Partial mastectomy/lumpectomy: Removal of the tumor along with a small amount of healthy breast tissue
Our surgeons will work with you to help you make the best decision for you. We can also help you and your care partners weigh your options.