Breast Program

The Breast Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital is staffed by leading radiation-therapy experts who provide compassionate, state-of-the-art care to patients with breast cancer.

Our Approach

Each year, our radiation oncologists treat thousands of women and men with every type of breast cancer, including recurring forms of the disease.

Breaking New Ground in Breast Cancer Treatment

Founded nearly 40 years ago, our program is one of the first—and most innovative—breast radiation oncology programs in the United States. We work closely with the Mass General Cancer Center, to develop and investigate advanced therapies and technologies used around the world to make treatment more effective and improve the quality of patients' lives.

Our breakthroughs in radiation therapy for breast cancer include:

  • Partial breast irradiation (PBI): For selected patients with early-stage cancer, we use this noninvasive technique to deliver radiation precisely to the area from which the tumor was removed. As a result, we can reduce treatment length from months to a week, twice a day. We also designed a trial to deliver PBI once a day for 2 weeks. PBI can potentially reduce side effects by targeting only the tumor area.
  • Heart and lung protection: To eliminate or decrease the heart's exposure to radiation, we use an advanced method that combines exceptional precision with a breath-holding technique for patients with cancer of the left breast and certain cardiac characteristics. We also offer prone breast treatment, which reduces the amount of lung exposed to radiation and may reduce the heart's exposure.
  • Lymphedema program: After some treatments, such as axillary lymph node dissection and/or axillary radiation, a patient's arm may swell, causing cellulitis. Difficult to treat when advanced, lymphedema also can lead to loss of function of the arm and be disfiguring, profoundly affecting emotional and psychological well-being. We initiated a unique screening program to detect very early signs and designed a trial for early intervention. This program includes laser-perometer measurements before and after treatment and twice annually during follow up, as well as access to physical therapists who specialize in lymphedema. We also initiated a clinical trial to test early intervention.
  • Proton beam therapy: We started a clinical trial for selected patients to determine the effectiveness of administering radiation to the chest wall and lymph nodes with proton therapy. This approach may eliminate the heart's exposure to radiation and minimizes dose to healthy tissues outside of the radiation target.

Dedicated & Accomplished Specialists

Every step of your treatment is managed by an experienced radiation oncologist who has dedicated his or her career to studying and treating breast cancer.

Our staff includes leading practitioners in the field of breast radiation oncology:

  • Alphonse Taghian, MD, PhD, program chief and Professor at Harvard Medical School. He has treated thousands of patients with breast cancer over the last 20 years. Dr. Taghian is a leader in partial breast irradiation with 3D conformal techniques, founded the first and unique lymphedema screening program and consults with physicians nationwide on complicated cases.
  • Shannon MacDonald, MD, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. She specializes in breast cancer and is conducting a leading-edge investigation using proton therapy for patients that require radiation following mastectomy.

Personalized & Comprehensive Care

In the highly specialized Gillette Center for Breast Cancer, our radiation oncologists work side-by-side with your entire cancer treatment team. These world-class breast cancer specialists may include medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, physical therapists, social workers and genetic counselors. Our cross-specialty approach enables us to provide comprehensive care tailored to your needs.

What to Expect

We encourage you to ask us about any step in the treatment process. The answers to many frequently asked questions also appear in Your Guide to Radiation Therapy (PDF).

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.

Lymphedema Following a Mastectomy

When the normal drainage pattern in the lymph nodes is disturbed or damaged (such as during radiation or during surgery to remove lymph nodes), this may cause an abnormal collection of fluid that causes the arm to swell.

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.

Your Guide to Radiation Therapy (PDF)

Read our patient information guide to learn more about the different types of radiation treatments and what patients can expect.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

Exercise breast cancer prevention

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and reminders are everywhere for women to remain vigilant about screening and maintaining a healthy lifestyle – including daily exercise. Lidia Schapira, MD, medical oncologist with the MGH Center for Breast Cancer, shares her insights on the benefits of staying fit.

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.

Your Guide to Radiation Therapy (PDF)

Read our patient information guide to learn more about the different types of radiation treatments and what patients can expect.

Clark Center for Radiation Oncology

Vida E & Arthur L. Goldstein Lunder Building
Lunder Building LL3
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-726- 8651
Fax: 857-238-6377
Email: InformationRadOnc@Partners.org

Public Transportation Access: yes
Disabled Access: yes

Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center
30 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617-726-0923 (Proton Inquiry Line: 617-724-1680)
Fax: 617-726-6498
Email: InformationRadOnc@partners.org