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Breast cancer

Breast cancer treatments

We target breast tumors with comprehensive treatments and technologies. Our accredited breast cancer program is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of breast cancer experts. Common treatments for inflammatory breast cancer, invasive breast cancer and other types of disease include:

Surgery

For most women with breast cancer, surgery is part of the treatment process. Our breast surgeons and surgical oncology teams have significant experience in performing surgical procedures for the many types of breast cancer, including inflammatory and invasive disease. We have the expertise and capabilities to treat advanced breast tumors that involve the chest wall, and we also perform palliative surgeries to eliminate pain and increase your comfort level.

Learn more about breast cancer surgeries

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be recommended before breast cancer surgery (neoadjuvant) or after surgery (adjuvant):

Neoadjuvant (or primary systemic) breast cancer chemotherapy is used before surgery to reduce the size of large breast tumors and to destroy cancer cells. This type of chemotherapy often makes breast-conserving surgery possible. It also helps our cancer doctors determine the effect a particular regimen is having on the breast tumor.

Adjuvant breast cancer chemotherapy is used after surgery or radiation therapy to eliminate any remaining cancer cells that may not have been removed during breast cancer surgery and/or radiation therapy. It also may prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the body.

Before chemotherapy, solid tumors may undergo genomic testing to determine whether they are likely to respond to specific chemotherapeutic drugs, thereby avoiding unnecessary toxicity to you.

During chemotherapy, patients will be monitored and may receive physical exams, blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans and X-rays.

Hormone therapy

The two most common types of breast cancer hormone therapy are:

Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs): These drugs bind to estrogen receptors in the breast cancer cells to block estrogen from reaching cancer cells, preventing their growth. Tamoxifen is a commonly used hormone therapy designed to prevent breast cancer recurrence. This drug is also used for some women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer.

Aromatase inhibitors: These breast cancer hormone therapy drugs block estrogen production by binding to the enzyme responsible for producing estrogen (the aromatase enzyme). Once estrogen production is halted, the cancer cells starve from lack of estrogen, which prevents them from growing and dividing.

Radiation therapy

Many breast cancer patients come to Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) with advanced-stage disease. Others have previously received traditional radiation therapy treatments and cannot tolerate more radiation exposure. The technologies we use allow our doctors to re-treat previously treated areas where cancer has recurred.

Learn more about radiation therapy for breast cancer 

Targeted therapy

In addition to chemotherapy drugs, biological response drugs may be recommended to treat breast tumors that produce too much of, or over-express, a protein called HER2. If laboratory testing reveals the HER2 gene in the cancer cells, the medications may help shut down the HER2 gene, cutting the cancer cells off from their energy supply.

Breast cancer targeted therapy is commonly paired with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, to help control cancer that has spread or to prevent breast cancer recurrence.

Immunotherapy

Drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors may be an option to treat patients with breast cancers whose cells have specific genetic features.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of a checkpoint inhibitor in combination with a specific chemotherapy drug for patients with inoperable, advanced triple-negative breast cancer that expresses the protein receptor PD-L1. Checkpoint inhibitors work by blocking receptors, such as PD-L1, from interacting with compatible receptors on immune cells, preventing an immune response.

Immunotherapy may also be an option to treat patients with inoperable, metastatic breast cancer with one of two genetic features: microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficiency (dMMR).

Breast cancer clinical trials

Clinical trials are a key testing ground for determining the effectiveness and safety of new treatments and drugs for many diseases, including cancer. As part of our commitment to providing new and innovative treatments, our doctors may recommend that you consider enrolling in carefully selected breast cancer clinical trials, if you meet specific criteria, to offer you access to treatment options that would otherwise be unavailable to you.

Each patient is considered for a clinical trial on an individual basis and may qualify at any stage of disease or treatment. Talk to your doctor about whether a breast cancer clinical trial is a good option for you and ask about the risks and various requirements involved.

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