Approach to Treating Breast Cancer

The management of breast cancer often involves several different medical specialties, with some therapies directed at local regional disease (that is, in the breast), and others, such as chemotherapy, directed at disease elsewhere in the body. Following diagnosis, in general, the first physician you see will be a surgeon.


What kind of surgery is recommended?

To ensure the best chance of successful treatment for breast cancer, all cancerous tissue must be removed, usually through surgery. Advances have led to more surgical options in the treatment of breast cancer. All surgical treatments are discussed in consultation with other cancer physicians, and specific treatments are recommended. You and your doctor will decide which surgical treatment is best for you.


Is radiation therapy recommended before or after surgery?

Radiation therapy is a localized treatment which is sometimes added to surgical management in breast cancer to improve the chances of controlling the disease in the breast, chest wall and surrounding lymph nodes. It is commonly used after lumpectomy to reduce the risk of cancer coming back in the breast. Radiation therapy is also used at times following mastectomy for patients at high risk for local recurrence.


If your doctor thinks radiation therapy is indicated for you, consultation is arranged with a radiation oncologist to discuss the treatment thoroughly.


When is chemotherapy recommended?

As part of your treatment for breast cancer, you will likely discuss chemotherapy with your doctor. This systemic treatment is used under certain circumstances to help lower the chance that breast cancer will return and may be given before or after breast surgery. Every patient’s ideal treatment plan is different. Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend individualized systemic therapy such as chemotherapy or hormonal therapy.


There are many different kinds of chemotherapy and different treatment schedules. If chemotherapy is indicated for you, your doctor will recommend the specific drug(s) and discuss the schedule and duration of treatment as well as side effects.