At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers (RMCC) there are many breast cancer treatment options that allow us to customize the best cancer care plan for you depending on your personal situation and cancer diagnosis.
Out of all the treatment options for breast cancer, surgery is the most common. To ensure you know what to expect, we will explain each type, discuss and compare the benefits and risks, and describe how each will change the way you look.
Breast-sparing surgery: Also called breast-conserving surgery, this operation removes the cancer rather than the breast. It can be done as a lumpectomy or segmental mastectomy (also called a partial mastectomy). Sometimes an excisional biopsy is the only surgery a woman needs because the surgeon was able to remove the whole lump.
Mastectomy: This operation removes the entire breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible). In some cases, a skin-sparing mastectomy may be an option. For this approach, your surgeon removes as little skin as possible.
During either of these procedures, your surgeon will likely remove one or more lymph nodes from under the arm to check for cancer cells. This is called your lymph node status.
After surgery for breast cancer, some women may choose breast reconstruction. It may be done at the same time as the cancer removal surgery or later.
To learn more about Breast Reconstruction Surgery visit our webpage.
To destroy breast cancer cells that remain in the area after surgery, your oncologist may recommend radiation therapy in your breast cancer treatment plan. Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and only affects the cells in the part of the body that is being treated.
There are two types of radiation therapy that oncologists use to treat breast cancer. Depending on your situation, you may receive both types, which include:
If lab tests show that the tumor in your breast has hormone receptors, meaning that it is fueled by natural hormones (estrogen and progesterone), then hormone therapy may be an option. Hormone therapy, also sometimes called anti-hormone treatment, keeps cancer cells from getting or using the natural hormones they need to grow.
If you have not gone through menopause, your options include:
If you have gone through menopause, your options include:
While chemotherapy is very effective in treating breast cancer, it might not be necessary for you. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs are usually given through a vein (intravenous) or as a pill. If chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, you will probably receive a combination of drugs.
Chemotherapy can be administered in an outpatient part of the hospital, at the doctor’s office, or at home. Some women, however, need to stay in the hospital during treatment. At RMCC, chemotherapy is normally delivered at each of our clinics, at the same location as your oncologist and the rest of the breast cancer care team.
Unfortunately, there are times when certain anticancer drugs can damage the ovaries. If you have not gone through menopause yet, you may experience various symptoms and side effects such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, irregular menstrual periods (or periods that stop altogether), and infertility (inability to become pregnant). For women over the age of 35, this damage to the ovaries is likely to be permanent.
On the other hand, you may remain able to become pregnant during chemotherapy. Before treatment begins, you should talk with your doctor about birth control because many drugs given during the first trimester are known to cause birth defects.
Another breast cancer treatment approach your RMCC oncologist might recommend is targeted therapy. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapies only kill cancer cells, leaving healthy cells alone. Instead of targeting the hormone receptors estrogen and progesterone, they target other parts of the cancer cell. This often reduces the number of side effects you may experience. With that said, there are unique side effects with targeted therapy that can be explained by your RMCC oncologist.
Because breast cancer can have many different attributes, it’s important to understand that, depending on your situation, targeted therapy may not be the best option for you. Additionally, The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) states that studies show that not all tumors have the same targets, therefore, the same targeted treatment does not work for everyone. If you are a good candidate for targeted therapies, however, you may receive them in addition to another form of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.
There are two main types of targeted therapy:
Drugs used in targeted therapy have been developed to target specific cell changes. Therefore, the drugs given to patients are usually based on their specific hormone status and the type of their breast cancer. If your RMCC oncologist feels like you would benefit from targeted therapy, your options could include any of the following types:
If your cancer has tested positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), it is likely that your breast cancer will grow and spread more aggressively. To target this type of breast cancer, a variety of drugs have been developed, which include:
If your breast cancer is hormone receptor-positive, your treatment will typically begin with hormone therapy. To help make hormone therapy even more effective, certain targeted therapy drugs have been developed. These include:
If you have hereditary breast cancer syndrome caused by inherited gene changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2, your cancer will be targeted with a type of drug known as a PARP inhibitor. The primary drug used is:
Rest assured, you are in good hands with Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. We believe in treating the whole person, not just the disease, which is why we will work hard to create the best cancer treatment plan for you.