Our approach is to be as minimally invasive as possible, both in diagnosing and in treating breast cancer, and to save as much breast tissue as we safely can. Among the innovative approaches offered are:
Multidisciplinary Patient Care
Our team of breast cancer center experts will develop and coordinate a treatment plan personalized for you. They will meet often to review your progress and will communicate findings with you and your referring doctor. This clear communication leads to seamless coordination of your care.
Video: Dr. Bev Moy explains what patients can expect during a multidisciplinary appointment.
Breast Cancer Symptoms, Staging and Treatment
What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells grow and multiply in the breast tissues. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the second-most common form of cancer in American women.
Breast cancer types include:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
- Invasive ductal carcinoma
- Invasive lobular carcinoma
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Paget disease of the nipple
- Phyllodes tumor
Find additional educational information about breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Signs of breast cancer may be similar to symptoms associated with other medical conditions. Please consult your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- A lump or swelling in or near the breast, including under the arm
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Thickening of breast tissue
- Nipple inversion (in which the nipple is pulled inward)
- Nipple discharge, particularly if bloody
- Breast pain or tenderness
- Puckering or dimpling of the breast skin
- Scaliness or redness of the breast skin or nipple
Screening, Diagnosis and Staging
The two most common ways to screen for breast cancer are a breast exam and a screening mammogram. A diagnosis of breast cancer may be confirmed through tests and procedures including a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a biopsy (e.g. sentinel lymph node biopsy).
Following a diagnosis, further testing is done to determine the stage of breast cancer. Stages range from Stage I (early stage) to Stage IV (advanced).
Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Breast Cancers
A precise, accurate diagnosis is critical to appropriate treatment. Our radiologists and pathologists are skilled in detecting and evaluating breast cancers. They use 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.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Your treatment plan will depend on factors such as the type and stage of breast cancer, your general health, and your preferences. Breast cancer treatment may involve one or more of the approaches outlined below.
Surgical options include:
- Lumpectomy: a portion of the breast is removed
- Mastectomy: all tissue from one breast is removed
- Double mastectomy: all tissue from both breasts is removed
Nonsurgical options include:
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation beams to shrink or destroy tumors while sparing healthy tissue
- Chemotherapy kills cancer cells through the use of intravenous or oral drugs
- Hormone therapy is sometimes effective in treating breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones
- Targeted therapy targets and interferes with the activity of specific proteins that drive tumor growth and spread
Standard and Novel Medical Treatments
In addition to traditional chemotherapies, patients have access to new approaches that studies are showing to be effective including:
- Hormonal therapies (Many protocols were developed by members of the Breast Cancer 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. Learn about our Breast Cancer Surgery Program.
Clinician Resource: Re-entry Tool for Breast Surgeons
Pioneering Radiation Therapies
The goal of radiation therapy is to shrink or destroy tumors using high-energy radiation beams while sparing healthy tissue. Learn about our Radiation Therapies.
Lymphedema Screening Program
Lymphedema (swelling) can be a side effect of breast cancer. Find out more about our unique Lymphedema Screening Program.
Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are research studies of new drugs, new combinations of drugs or already approved drugs being studied to treat patients in new/different ways. They may include new drug doses or new ways (schedules) to give the drugs. Clinical trials are run under strict guidelines. Their purpose is to help find out whether new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard (current) treatment. At Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, there are several clinical trials open for the treatment of breast cancer that use the latest in cancer treatments.
Cancer is increasingly becoming a disease in which the genetic make-up of each individual cancer drives therapy. The Center for Breast Cancer also has access to clinical trials involving these targeted therapy approaches.