Treatment

Cancer treatment depends on the cancer's location, if it's invasive, or if it spreads to nearby tissue.

 

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There are two basic types of treatment for breast cancer—local and systemic. You can have one or both types of treatment. All treatments can be done under one roof at the Tony Teramana Cancer Center.

Local treatments are used to remove or destroy breast cancer in a specific area, and surgery is the main local therapy for breast cancer.

Surgical options include:

  • Mastectomy—an operation to remove the breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible) is a mastectomy. In total (simple) mastectomy, the surgeon removes the whole breast. Some lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed. In modified radical mastectomy, the surgeon removes the whole breast, and most or all of the lymph nodes under the arm. Often, the lining over the chest muscles is removed.

  • Breast-conserving surgery—breast-conserving surgeries remove the cancer but leave most of the breast intact. This type of surgery includes:
    • Lumpectomy
    • Partial mastectomy
    • Segmental mastectomy
    • Quadrantectomy

A doctor may also recommend radiation, especially after breast-conserving surgery, to destroy any breast cancer cells that may remain in the area. You should discuss all the options with your doctor and consider obtaining a second opinion before making a final decision. 

Systemic treatments affect cells throughout the body and can be used to shrink a tumor before local therapy. They can also be used after other treatments to prevent reoccurrence or they can be used to treat cancer that has spread. Examples of systemic therapy include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biological therapy.

Chemotherapy for breast cancer is usually a combination of drugs administered by a pill or by injection. Biological therapy is a treatment designed to enhance the body's natural defenses against cancer.

Hormonal therapy may be used if tests show that hormones are helping the cancer to grow. Hormonal therapy deprives the cancer cells of estrogen. Examples include surgery to remove the ovaries. There are also targeted drugs, which attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells.

The type of treatment will vary for every woman. It will depend on many factors including, but not limited to:

  • Age
  • General health
  • Size and location of the tumor
  • Type of cancer
  • Size of the breast

One of the most important considerations in treatment is the size of the tumor and if the cancer has spread—once again, a good reason for early detection.