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Treatment for breast cancer is based on the size and location of the tumor, laboratory test results and the stage of the disease. At the Palmetto Health Breast Center, patients diagnosed with cancer have access to a full range of treatment options available at Palmetto Health's Cancer Centers.
Weekly Breast Conferences – Primary care physicians, breast imaging specialists/radiologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, genetics counselors and the breast health/cancer nurse navigators meet weekly in Breast Conference to discuss and plan each patient's treatment. In 1995, we started Columbia's first Breast Cancer Conference, so you have the benefit of years of experience, thousands of cases reviewed, and the collective brainpower of the region's leaders in breast cancer planning your care and treatment.
Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. An operation to remove the breast is called a mastectomy. Lumpectomies and segmental mastectomies are types of breast conserving surgeries that remove the cancer but not the breast. Breast conserving surgeries may be followed by radiation therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Lymph nodes under that arm may also be removed to help determine whether cancer cells have entered the lymph system.
Sentinel Node Biopsy prevents people from having unnecessary surgeries. The sentinel node is the first lymph node that filters fluid from the breast. Malignant cells reach the sentinel node first, so this lymph node is more likely to contain cancer cells. Based on this assumption, the node most likely to contain malignant cells should be removed and analyzed. A sentinel node biopsy means the node is removed and anaylzed. A negative sentinel lymph node indicates a more than 95 percent chance that the remaining lymph nodes in the axilla also are cancer free. Therefore, there is no need to undergo a full axillary lymph node dissection.
Radiation Therapy is the use of high-energy particles such as X-rays and gamma rays to destroy cancer cells. Different forms of external beam radiation therapy including Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) are used to treat breast cancer.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. In breast cancer, chemotherapy might be given before surgery to shrink the size of the cancer or chemotherapy may be best given following surgery. This is a decision your medical oncologist would discuss with you.
Hormone Therapy often plays an important role in managing breast cancer. The lining of the ducts and lobules in the breast normally change under the influence of hormones. Research has shown that hormone treatment for about 5 years following chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy improves cancer-free survival.
Clinical Trials are studies that try to improve prevention, advance current treatment or find new treatments for cancer. They are the only reliable way to prove the effectiveness of various treatments. During a clinical trial, information is carefully collected to assess improvement in outcomes and risks that may be associated with new treatments. Medical oncologists at South Carolina Oncology Associates are involved in clinical trials through the Sarah Cannon Research Institute and the American Cancer Society provides a free cancer clinical trial matching service to people looking for cancer clinical trials.
To learn more about breast cancer treatment, please visit the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.