Breast Cancer (Facts, Stages) (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- Breast cancer facts
- What is breast cancer?
- What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
- What causes breast cancer?
- What are the different types of breast cancer?
- What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
- How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Screening for breast cancer
- Definitive diagnosis
- Specialized breast cancer testing
- What are the stages of breast cancer?
- What is the treatment for breast cancer?
- Surgery for breast cancer
- Radiation for breast cancer
- Hormone therapy for breast cancer
- Chemotherapy for breast cancer
- Targeted therapy for breast cancer
- Breast cancer treatment by stage
- What are the survival rates and prognosis for breast cancer?
- What research is being performed on breast cancer?
- Can breast cancer be prevented?
- Breast Cancer FAQs
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
Surgery for breast cancer
Surgery is the most common type of treatment for breast cancer. Different surgical treatments are available for early stage breast cancers. Mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast. Breast-conserving surgery, such as lumpectomy or partial mastectomy, can be appropriate for some women. Sentinel lymph node biopsy (removing the first lymph node that drains the affected area) may be performed to assess whether the cancer has begun to spread to nearby lymph nodes. If the lymph nodes contain cancer, an axillary dissection may be done to remove and examine other nearby lymph nodes.
Reconstructive surgery may be done either at the time of mastectomy or at a later time to rebuild the shape of the breast.
Radiation for breast cancer
Radiation therapy is a common treatment for women who have had breast-conserving surgery. It is also sometimes given to women who have had a mastectomy, particularly if there has been spread of the tumor to the chest wall. This treatment uses high-energy rays to destroy remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be given externally or internally. External radiation therapy is given in a clinic, usually five days a week for several weeks. This is the most common kind of radiation therapy used to treat breast cancer. However, in some cases, internal radiation therapy can be used. This involves the placement of radioactive material directly into the breast tissue through thin tubes. After a short time period, the material is removed. This can be repeated on a daily basis for a week. Administering radioactive material inside the body is known as brachytherapy.
Hormone therapy for breast cancer
Hormone therapy is an effective form of treatment for cancers that are positive for hormone receptors (ER and PR). Hormone therapy is designed to deprive the tumor cells of the hormones they need to grow and can be given as different types of drugs. Tamoxifen, a drug that interferes with the activity of estrogen in the body, is a common hormone therapy drug. It can be given to both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Studies have shown that taking tamoxifen for five years after surgical removal of the tumor improves outcomes in women with ER-positive breast cancer. In postmenopausal women, the drug class known as aromatase inhibitors is also used as a form of hormone therapy. Examples of aromatase inhibitors approved by the FDA are anastrozole (Arimidex), letrozole (Femara), and exemestane (Aromasin).
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