Ways Breast Cancer is Treated

In the year 2013, women with breast cancer have more treatment options than ever. This includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, etc. The right treatment depends on multiple things such as your tumor type, tumor characteristics, and your general overall health.

Breast Cancer SurgerySURGERY

Most women with breast cancer will have surgery to remove their tumor. Surgery is generally combined with other types of treatment.

Types of surgery used to remove tumors include:

Lumpectomy – Removes only the tumor and a small amount of the tissue surrounding it. This kind of surgery is usually followed by radiation.

Mastectomy – Removes the entire breast that has the tumor. After a mastectomy, reconstructive surgery can rebuild your breast so it is about the same size and shape as it was before.

Reconstructive Options include:

  • an implant that is filled with either saline (saltwater) or silicone gel
  • tissue transplanted from your own back, belly, or buttock (with or without additional implants)
  • a reconstructed breast with a smooth surface
  • a reconstructed nipple (tattooed or made from your own transplanted tissue)

For more information about reconstruction click here.

During your surgery you may have your lymph node checked

Sentinel lymph node biopsy – Checks to see if cancer has spread to other parts of the body by removing the first lymph node(s) cancer is likely to travel to.

Axillary Node Dissection -Based on the doctor's physical exam and other indicators about the likelihood that cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, the surgeon will generally remove between five and thirty nodes during a traditional axillary dissection. This is typically done if the sentinel lymph node biopsy is positive for cancer.

Breast Cancer ChemotherapyCHEMOTHERAPY

Chemotherapy refers to drugs that kill rapidly dividing cells. This type of treatment kills cancer cells, but harms some healthy cells as well, which can lead to various side effects. This is given intravenously.


These are newer drugs designed to kill only cancer cells, not healthy cells. They usually have different side effects than traditional chemotherapy.


Some breast cancers grow in response to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Hormonal treatments block these hormones or reduce their amount in the body.

Image courtesy of www.breastcancersurgeon.org


Breast Cancer RadiationRadiation therapy uses a special kind of high-energy beam to damage cancer cells. These high-energy beams, which are invisible to the human eye, damage a cell’s DNA, the material that cells use to divide.

Radiation is typically used after a lumpectomy for:

  • early stage cancers
  • cancers 4 centimeters or smaller
  • and for clear margins

Radiation may be used after a mastectomy if:

  • The cancer is 5 centimeters or larger (the cancer can be 1 lump, a series of lumps, or even microscopic lumps that together are 5 centimeters or larger).cancers 4 centimeters or smaller
  • The cancer had invaded the lymph channels and blood vessels in the breast
  • The removed tissue has a positive margin of resection.
  • Four or more lymph nodes were involved OR, for premenopausal women, at least 1 lymph node was involved
  • The cancer has invaded the skin (with locally advanced or inflammatory breast cancer).

Partial Breast Irradiation

Partial Breast IrradiationPBI involves treatment of only a portion of the breast (the lumpectomy cavity plus a limited amount of surrounding tissues).  Since a smaller volume of breast tissue is irradiated, treatment times are significantly shorter than conventional treatment. While whole breast irradiation is considered the standard of care in women undergoing breast conserving therapy (BCT), partial breast irradiation can be used for treatment in a select group of women undergoing radiation. Courtesy of www.cancer.gov

Financial Resources

Financial Assistance

Any uninsured, low-income (family income not greater than 200% of the federal poverty level) woman who has been diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer should go to the county health department in her county of residence. Information regarding the program can also be obtained from the Georgia Screening and Treatment Unit by email cabroom@dhr.state.ga.us or by telephone (404) 657-7735 or visit www.health.state.ga.us.