Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast cancer develops from the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, which can form tumors and spread throughout the breast and to other parts of the body. Fortunately, due to recent developments in breast cancer treatment, patients have a number of options that can help them lead healthy and productive lives despite a breast cancer diagnosis.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we take a comprehensive, multispecialty approach to breast cancer treatment. We offer many treatment options as well as innovative clinical trials in a single convenient location. Every patient’s individualized treatment plan is created and carried out not just by one general oncologist, but by a collaborative team of specialists who work closely together to achieve the best possible outcome for the patient. Each patient’s case is reviewed by the members of our tumor board, who make evidence-based treatment recommendations based on the specific situation.
Treatment plans may include some or all of the following, depending on the type and stage of the cancer and additional factors such as the overall health of the patient.
Breast Cancer Outcomes
The goal of any cancer treatment is to achieve the most favorable outcome while minimizing side effects and ensuring the best possible quality of life. On average, Moffitt's breast cancer treatment survival rates exceed 1.5 times the national average.
Surgery for breast cancer
Surgery may be necessary to remove as much of the tumor as possible, along with any affected lymph nodes. There are several different types of breast cancer surgery that our oncology team might recommend, including:
- Lumpectomy – With this type of breast-conserving surgery, only the tumor and a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding it are removed. The amount of tissue removed depends on the size of the tumor.
- Mastectomy – This surgery removes part or all of the breast tissue and may also remove lymph nodes from the underarm area. There are several types of mastectomies, such as:
- Total (or simple) mastectomy – One entire breast is removed, including the skin, nipple, areola, and breast tissue.
- Bilateral mastectomy – Both breasts are completely surgically removed.
- Prophylactic or preventive mastectomy – One or both breasts are removed before cancer develops as a way to prevent the disease in high-risk patients.
- Skin-, nipple- and/or areola-sparing mastectomies – These types of mastectomies preserve as much of the surface structures of the breast as possible to allow for easier and more natural-looking reconstructions.
- Modified radical mastectomy – The breast tissue is removed and an axillary lymph node dissection is performed to remove the lymph nodes in the underarm area.
- Sentinel node mapping and biopsy – Dye is used to identify sentinel nodes, which are then surgically removed and evaluated for the presence of cancer cells to determine the extent or stage of the breast cancer.
- Breast reconstruction – Breasts are surgically rebuilt after a mastectomy, either using artificial implants or a tissue transfer from elsewhere on the patient’s body.
Chemotherapy for breast cancer
Chemotherapy can be used as a primary treatment for breast cancer or paired with another treatment such as radiation therapy or surgery. There are dozens of different chemotherapies that may be used depending on factors like the stage and type of breast cancer, the patient’s age and overall health, any unique genetic factors and other treatments being used. Chemotherapy is commonly delivered intravenously (with an IV), though it can also be administered as an oral medication. Moffitt’s oncologists specializing in breast cancer treatments are fertility experts and can make it possible for women to receive carefully-timed chemotherapy while pregnant or with the goal of retaining fertility for future childbearing.
Radiation therapy for breast cancer
Moffitt is pleased to offer numerous non-chemo treatments for breast cancer as well, such as radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to destroy breast cancer cells. Radiation may be delivered to the whole breast or a small part of the breast, or intraoperative radiotherapy may be directed toward the immediate area surrounding the tumor during surgery using an advanced system called INTRABEAM® Radiation Radiotherapy. Radiation therapy may be used as a follow-up to a surgical treatment with the goal of destroying any cancer cells that remained after surgery and preventing the cancer from coming back.
Hormone/endocrine therapy for breast cancer
Hormone therapies can block the body’s ability to produce estrogen and progesterone, which can slow or stop the growth of hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. It may be used before surgery to shrink a tumor, make the surgery easier and lower the risk of recurrence. Hormone therapy is often then continued after surgery or may be used only after surgery to reduce the risk that the breast cancer will come back.
Targeted drug therapy for breast cancer
Targeted therapy uses drugs that target the specific genes, proteins or tissue environment of a patient’s breast cancer. These medications aim to prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells. Different types of targeted drug therapies are used for different tumor types.
Immunotherapy for breast cancer
Immunotherapy boosts the patient’s own immune system and ‘trains’ it to recognize, target and destroy breast cancer cells. A common type of immunotherapy is a checkpoint inhibitor, which helps the immune system differentiate between healthy cells and cancerous cells. Immunotherapy may be paired with chemotherapy for best results.
Breast cancer clinical trials
Moffitt is committed to discovering and developing cutting-edge new treatments for breast cancer through our robust clinical trials program. We are constantly innovating in order to provide our patients with the best chance of survival and recovery.
Common breast cancer treatment FAQs
A breast cancer diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming. Many patients want to learn as much as possible about their disease so they can make informed decisions about their treatment. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of common breast cancer FAQs:
- What should I expect with a total mastectomy?
- Will I need chemotherapy after a total mastectomy?
- Questions to ask before a total mastectomy
- How long after diagnosis should I receive breast cancer treatment?
- Questions to ask your breast cancer specialist
- Four things you should know about breast cancer chemotherapy
- Three breast cancer symptoms not to ignore
- What are the most common types of breast cancer?
- What does a breast cancer lump feel like?
- How do I manage the side effects of breast cancer treatment?
- Will I lose my hair with breast cancer treatment?
- What should I expect from my first mammogram?
- How often should I receive a breast cancer screening?
- What is inflammatory breast cancer?
- What does an inflammatory breast cancer rash look like?
- Can breast cancer recur after a mastectomy?
- How to do a self breast exam
- Where does breast cancer spread to first?
- What are the early signs of inflammatory breast cancer?
- What are the signs that breast cancer has spread?
Why choose Moffitt Cancer Center for breast cancer treatment?
The Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center is a multispecialty clinic that offers the best and latest in breast cancer treatment. Our team includes experts in many relevant fields, such as surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, plastic surgeons, fertility preservation specialists and more. We are proud to be the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida. To learn more about our breast cancer treatment options or to schedule an appointment with our team, call us at 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.