Many women with breast cancer have no symptoms, particularly in the early stages, when the disease is most treatable. This is why regular mammogram screenings are so important. Diagnostic options include:
A mammogram uses X-rays to look for breast abnormalities that warrant further attention. Often, the disease is discovered through this screening method before any lumps are formed.
Your doctor will check your breasts and armpits for lumps or abnormalities.
Ultrasound uses high-intensity soundwaves to create images of structures inside your body. The test can help determine whether a lump is solid, or a fluid-filled cyst.
Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
The MRI uses powerful magnets to create images of the inside of your breast. Before the test, a contrast dye is injected into your veins to make the images easier to read.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning
The test uses radioactive tracer dyes to help highlight suspicious areas.
Examining suspicious tissue in the lab is the only definitive way to diagnose breast cancer. During the procedure, your doctor will use a specialized needle, guided by advanced imaging, to remove a small piece of tissue. The sample is sent to the lab, where experts will determine if it is cancerous. Testing can also reveal the aggressiveness of the cancer and potential treatment options.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your care team will next determine the extent of your cancer, measured in stages. Several factors go into this rating, including the size, location and spread of the cancer. The stages:
- Stage 0: At this point, the cancer is non-invasive and hasn’t broken out of your breast ducts.
- Stage I: The cancerous cells have spread into nearby breast tissue.
- Stage II: This is a small tumor (2 to 5 centimeters) that may or may not affect the nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III: Usually referred to as locally advanced breast cancer, it has spread beyond the starting point and may have invaded nearby tissue and lymph nodes. At this point, it hasn’t spread to distant organs.
- Stage IV: Called metastatic breast cancer, it has spread to other areas, such as your bones, liver or brain.
Treatment Options @accordionTitleTag.Name>
Our fellowship-trained multidisciplinary team will work with you to determine the right care plan for your unique needs. Treatment options will vary, based on a range of factors, including the size and location of your tumor. Our multidisciplinary approach means you will have a comprehensive treatment plan drawing on the strengths of several specialists. Your treatment will likely include a combination of options:
Breast cancer surgery
Most women will have some form of breast cancer surgery, along with additional treatments. If you choose to have reconstruction surgery, our reconstructive surgeons will be part of your team from the start.
Among the surgeries:
- Lumpectomy: Also known as breast-conserving surgery, this removes the tumor and some of the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Mastectomy: This surgery removes all of your breast tissue. Advances in this surgery may allow preservation of the skin and nipple.
- Sentinel node biopsy: Your surgeon may recommend removing some lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread there.
- Axillary lymph node dissection: If cancer is found during a sentinel node biopsy, your surgeon may recommend removing lymph nodes from your armpit.
Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells, using a drug or combination of drugs. Chemotherapy may be recommended before surgery to shrink the tumor, or after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells that don’t show up on imaging scans.
Radiation therapy uses high-intensity X-rays to kill cancer cells. Fast-growing cancer cells are more susceptible to the effects of radiation, making them easier to destroy than healthy cells.
Accelerated partial-breast irradiation (hypofractionated radiation therapy)
For some patients with early-stage breast cancer, this treatment significantly shortens the course of radiation to only five days. APBI divides the total radiation prescribed into a few high-dose treatments.
MRI-guided radiation therapy
With this advanced technology, your doctor uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to precisely target the tumor with radiation treatments. There are numerous advantages, including less radiation exposure to healthy cells and organs.
This precision treatment targets the tumor with protons (positively charged particles) that damage the DNA of cancer cells. After the proton particles reach the tumor, they deliver a high dose of radiation, with minimal damage to surrounding tissues and organs.
Breast reconstruction is surgery after a mastectomy or lumpectomy to recreate breasts. This process can start immediately after breast cancer surgery or it can be delayed until later. Reconstruction can use implants or tissue from another part of your body.
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