Treatment Programs

Breast Cancer Treatment

The Center for Breast Cancer provides comprehensive, compassionate care for patients with any stage of breast cancer.

As a patient at our Center for Breast Cancer, you will benefit from a team approach to treating your cancer and a rigorous research program to develop effective new therapies. We provide advanced treatment for:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
  • Invasive breast cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Recurrent or metastatic breast cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Reconstructive breast surgery

Innovative Approaches

Our approach is to be as minimally invasive as possible, both in diagnosing and in treating breast cancer, and to spare as much breast tissue as we safely can. Among the innovative approaches offered here are:

  • Pioneering radiation techniques, including partial breast irradiation completed in one week (instead of 6 weeks), or hypofractionation to whole breast radiation in 4 weeks (instead of 6 weeks)
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy techniques
  • Breast care management in the elderly
  • Targeted therapies
  • Novel approaches for all subtypes of breast cancers, such as triple negative tumors
  • Novel therapeutic approaches for advanced disease as part of a clinical trial and utilizing the most effective treatments available
  • A unique Lymphedema Screening Program to help detect and treat swelling in breast cancer patients

Multidisciplinary Patient CareYour personalized treatment plan will be developed and coordinated by a team of breast cancer specialists who will meet regularly to review your progress and who will communicate regularly with you and your referring physician. These experts may include:

  • Pathologists and radiologists from the Cancer Center’s Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center who specialize in breast cancer only and provide a precise diagnosis of your cancer, including any “tumor markers” that can help your care team determine the best treatment
  • Surgical Oncologists experienced in the latest breast cancer surgery approaches, including nipple-sparing procedures
  • Medical Oncologists to prescribe the most effective hormonal, chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments
  • Radiation Oncologists who specialize in delivering the most effective therapeutic dose while protecting healthy tissue
  • Oncology nurses and nurse practitioners who care exclusively for patients with cancer
  • Oncology psychiatrists and social workers experienced in helping with the cognitive side effects of cancer and treatment, as well the emotional and spiritual aspects of the cancer experience
  • A nutritionist to help you with questions about diet and nutrition during treatment
  • Palliative care providers to improve quality of life
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgeons to provide aesthetic restoration after surgery
  • Physical therapists with special expertise in lymphedema for patients treated for breast cancer.

Members of your care team meet regularly with you and your referring physician to ensure clear communication and seamless coordination of care.

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Breast CancersA precise, accurate diagnosis is critical to appropriate treatment. Our radiologists and pathologists are highly specialized in the detection and evaluation of breast cancers. They use a full range of sophisticated imaging and surgical procedures to determine the location, stage and type of breast cancer. For more information on breast cancer diagnosis, please see our Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center.

Standard and Novel Medical TreatmentsIn addition to traditional chemotherapies, patients have access to new approaches that studies are showing to be effective including:

  • Hormonal therapies with agents that are effective in treating breast cancer (Many of the protocols using hormonal treatment were developed by members of the Gillette Center)
  • Therapies for drug-resistant tumors that help boost sensitivity to chemotherapy
  • Acupuncture to help manage side effects

Excellence in Surgical Care

Less invasive surgery leads to faster recovery. Patients do better when they are cared for by specialists in their type of cancer and in centers that treat higher numbers of patients with the same type of cancer. Our surgeons are breast cancer specialists, treating approximately 1,000 newly diagnosed patients per year. Among the conventional and minimally invasive surgical approaches offered here are:

  • Sentinel lymph node mapping
  • Axillary lymph node dissection
  • Lumpectomy
  • Mastectomy
  • Prophylactic mastectomy
  • Breast reconstruction

Learn more about breast cancer surgery.

Pioneering Radiation TherapiesThe goal of radiation therapy is to shrink or destroy tumors using high-energy radiation beams while sparing healthy tissue. To accomplish this, our specialized radiation teams offer a full spectrum of radiation treatments including:

  • Partial breast radiation treatments that may be completed in one week
  • External beam radiation using the most current technologies for imaging and dose delivery which can be delivered in 4 or 6 weeks
  • Approaches that minimize the exposure of the heart to radiation.
  • Advanced image-guided technologies to pinpoint the treatment area

Learn more about radiation therapy.

Lymphedema Screening ProgramLymphedema, a painful swelling of the limbs, can be a common side effect of breast cancer. As part of a unique Lymphedema Screening Program our specialists use a highly sensitive machine called a perometer to test each breast cancer patient for early signs of arm lymphedema. The perometer allows for quick and easy testing, allowing patients to be screened on a regular basis. Patients are measures before any treatment for baseline information and routinely monitored throughout treatment to enable our specialists to detect and treat lymphedema in its earliest stages. Patients with mild or moderate lymphedema are offered clinical trials for treatment.

Treating Cancer through Clinical TrialsAs part of one of the nation’s leading centers for breast cancer research, our researchers are developing promising treatments for breast cancer. We have one of New England’s largest clinical trial programs with many opportunities for eligible patients at any stage of disease to participate. Current studies include:

  • Breast cancer prevention pilot trials in healthy postmenopausal women
  • Ways to minimize arm lymphedema (swelling due to post-surgical fluid retention)
  • The use of targeted therapeutics, including agents that target specific enzymes to treat subtypes of breast cancer
  • Genetic studies to determine which breast cancers are more likely to recur
  • Drugs to reduce recurrence

Find clinical trials for breast cancer.
Find targeted therapy trials for breast cancer.

Developing Better Therapies through ResearchLaboratory studies continually improve approaches to cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment. Our research is aided by databases assembled or maintained here that contain detailed information about breast cancer treatment and outcomes. These databases have been used for retrospective and hypothesis-generating studies and have the capacity to improve the standard of care. Our researchers continue to explore mutations within cancer cells that may lead to better targeted therapies in the future.

Learn more about our research. 

Breast Cancer in Men

Breast cancer in men is a rare condition in which certain cells in the breast become abnormal and multiply without control to form a tumor.

Breast Cancer-related Lymphedema
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center offers lymphedema screening for women who have been treated for breast cancer.

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program focuses on improving the quality of life and well-being of Cancer Center patients, their families and friends through free wellness services such as acupuncture and yoga. These services help you take care of your whole self — mind, body and spirit.

Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Center

The Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Center is a program that offers a range of support resources around the Cancer Center. The center has an ongoing mission to make support services, as well as respite and community-building areas, more accessible to patients and families throughout the Cancer Center.

Illuminations Program

Illuminations is a rotating art exhibit displayed in the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. The program aims to enlighten and encourage patients and their loved ones by enhancing our environment of care.

The PACT Program

The Marjorie E. Korff PACT program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center provides psycho-educational support for parents who are patients.

Oncology Chaplaincy

Our oncology chaplain is familiar with the unique needs of those with cancer.

Home Disconnect

A home infusion pump may be part of your treatment plan. In some cases, you may have the option for disconnecting the chemotherapy from home. If this option applies to you, and you would prefer to disconnect from home, this instructional video will reinforce the teaching provided to you by your nurse in the Mass General cancer Center

Breast Cancer Fashion Fundraiser April 30

The Partnership Symposium: Conquering Breast Cancer

On Sunday, April 26, the 92nd Street Y in New York City brings together three of the leading breast cancer organizations, top scientists and researchers, and breast cancer survivors to provide clear and current information on the disease.

Avon Walk Boston supports research and care at Mass General

As part of the Eighth Annual Avon Walk Boston, the Avon Foundation awarded a generous research and patient care grant to Mass General's breast cancer program.

Mammograms and thyroid cancer: The facts about breast-cancer screening

Alarmist claims about a connection between thyroid cancer rates and mammography are not only without merit but also potentially harmful if they deter women from their annual screening.

New 3D Technology Improves Breast Screening Accuracy

Mammograms have been the gold standard for detecting breast cancer for more than 20 years, but a new technology promises better detection and fewer false-positive results.

Breast Tomosynthesis

Pioneered at Mass General Imaging, breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography) provides a clear view through overlapping layers of breast tissue in order to improve breast-cancer detection while reducing callbacks.

A Mass General breast cancer patient overcomes her challenges

Blind since birth, Lil had difficulty getting to medical appointments including annual mammograms. With help from a patient navigator, she learned to overcome the many challenges she faced with a breast cancer diagnosis.

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program focuses on improving the quality of life and well-being of Cancer Center patients, their families and friends through free wellness services such as acupuncture and yoga. These services help you take care of your whole self — mind, body and spirit.

Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Center

The Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Center is a program that offers a range of support resources around the Cancer Center. The center has an ongoing mission to make support services, as well as respite and community-building areas, more accessible to patients and families throughout the Cancer Center.

Illuminations Program

Illuminations is a rotating art exhibit displayed in the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. The program aims to enlighten and encourage patients and their loved ones by enhancing our environment of care.

The PACT Program

The Marjorie E. Korff PACT program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center provides psycho-educational support for parents who are patients.

Oncology Chaplaincy

Our oncology chaplain is familiar with the unique needs of those with cancer.

Home Disconnect

A home infusion pump may be part of your treatment plan. In some cases, you may have the option for disconnecting the chemotherapy from home. If this option applies to you, and you would prefer to disconnect from home, this instructional video will reinforce the teaching provided to you by your nurse in the Mass General cancer Center

Cancer Center

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-726-5130

patient

Request an appointment at the Cancer Center

Contact the Cancer Center to schedule an appointment with one of our cancer specialists

Discover the Cancer Center patient experience

Our approach to patient care unites cancer specialists across the hospital to create a personalized treatment plan for each patient, ensuring the best possible outcomes.

patient

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Learn more about breast imaging services at Mass General and where to get a screening mammogram.