Explore the Breast Cancer Treatment Program

Overview

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:

  • Pioneering radiation techniques
  • Partial breast irradiation completed in one week (instead of 6 weeks) or hypofractionation to whole breast radiation in 4 weeks (instead of 6 weeks)
  • Latest surgery techniques: Nipple-sparing mastectomy
  • Targeted therapies
  • New therapeutic approaches for: Subtypes of breast cancers, such as triple negative tumors; advanced disease as part of a clinical trial
  • A unique Lymphedema Screening Program to help detect and treat swelling in breast cancer patients
  • Breast care management in the elderly

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
  • Angiosarcoma
  • 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.

 


Patient Education

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 & Ovarian Cancer Genetics Clinic

Breast & Ovarian Cancer Genetics Clinic

We help to identify families that may have a hereditary breast or ovarian cancer syndrome.

Breast Evaluation Center

Breast Evaluation Center

Our Breast Evaluation Center focuses on breast health and breast cancer detection.

Breast Imaging Program

Breast Imaging Program

Mass General's Breast Imaging Program provides state-of-the-art exams.

Breast Cancer Surgery Program

Breast Cancer Surgery Program

Learn about Mass General's breast cancer surgery program.

Radiation Oncology Breast Program

Radiation Oncology Breast Program

Learn about Mass General's radiation oncology breast program.

Breast Cancer-related Lymphedema Program

Breast Cancer-related Lymphedema Program

Find out more about our unique Lymphedema Screening Program.

Cancer Rehabilitation Program

Cancer Rehabilitation Program

This program helps patients regain physical abilities and maintain independence.

Preparing For Your Visit

Preparing For Your Visit

A checklist of items to bring with you for your first visit and helpful information.

Supportive Care

Supportive Care

We offer a variety of education and support resources to help you and your family.

Workshops & Support Groups

Workshops & Support Groups

We offer a wide range of integrative therapies, workshops and support groups.


Videos


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