Breast cancer treatments

At HonorHealth, you don’t just get one doctor who plans your treatment. You get a team of 30-50 breast cancer specialists who map out your customized treatment plan. The team may include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, geneticists, dietitians, navigators and reproductive endocrinologists. Your team will evaluate your tumor's proteins, properties and vulnerabilities that may respond best to one or more of the following:

Surgery

The most common treatment for breast cancer is surgery. HonorHealth surgeons have access to unique technologies that allow them to save healthy tissue through precision targeting during surgery.

  • With a lumpectomy, the surgeon removes the tumor and surrounding tissue until the margins of the incision are free of cancer cells.
  • With a mastectomy, the surgeon removes the entire breast. Lymph nodes near the breast also may need removal if cancer cells have spread there. If you decide on breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, you can start it when you have the mastectomy or choose to do it later. See what to expect (PDF).

Chemotherapy

Not everyone with breast cancer needs chemotherapy. Your HonorHealth specialists will determine if it's the best option for you. If chemo is needed, it may be delivered through an IV at scheduled appointments. When appropriate, chemo can instead be delivered through a pill you take at home. Typically, if you have a tumor that's five centimeters or larger, you'll need traditional intravenous chemotherapy. Your physician can choose from a wide variety of drugs to effectively treat your breast cancer. A "cocktail" of more than one chemo drug may be customized for your cancer.

Radiation

Radiation therapy sends high doses of radiation to the area where your tumor was, or is, to kill cancer cells. You might undergo radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor, but most patients have radiation after surgery — particularly after a lumpectomy. Your HonorHealth radiation oncologist will advise you on the number of doses and appointments you'll need. Depending on your cancer's type and stage, radiation can be delivered by external beam or internally through brachytherapy, the insertion of sealed needles, seeds, wires or catheters placed in or near the tumor.

Clinical trials

The HonorHealth Research and Innovation Institute works closely with pharmaceutical companies and other partners on groundbreaking new drugs and treatments. Through clinical trials, you can have access to the newest drugs available and help test new treatments. Your care team may encourage you to seek out a clinical trial as soon as you're diagnosed — clinical trials no longer are a last resort.

Targeted therapies

Targeted breast cancer therapies focus on specific characteristics of cancer cells such as a protein that signals cancer cells to grow quickly or abnormally. Another way is to block the growth of new blood vessels required by cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapies generally are less likely to harm normal, healthy cells. Some targeted therapies are antibodies that work like those produced by your immune system.


Genetics and breast cancer

Only 5-10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary. However, understanding your genetics will help you and your physician take the best steps to prevent or treat the disease. Consider that:

  • Researchers have studied genetic links to breast cancer, finding that only about 10 percent of breast cancer cases are related to the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations. The overwhelming majority of breast cancers have unknown causes.
  • If you develop breast cancer and discover you have BRCA1 or BRCA2, your HonorHealth doctors will be especially aggressive with it. BRCA-positive cancer is more likely to develop into triple negative breast cancer or into a second cancer elsewhere in the body or in the other breast.
  • If you're concerned about passing on a breast cancer gene mutation to a child, you can turn to an HonorHealth reproductive endocrinologist. The specialist can harvest a breast cancer patient's eggs, test them for breast cancer genetic mutations, and store the ones testing negative for future implantation.

HonorHealth offers genetic counseling for breast cancer in Phoenix and Scottsdale. Call 480-882-4703.

Hormone therapy

It can slow or stop the growth of hormone-sensitive breast cancer tumors by:

  • Blocking your ability to produce hormones
  • Interfering with hormone action

Tamoxifen and raloxifene are oral hormone therapy drugs shown to reduce the recurrence of breast cancer.