How We Can Help
Breast Cancer Treatment Information
Breast cancer detection continues to advance. New technologies allow us to find breast cancer in its earliest stages and to locate cancer that may have spread to other areas of the body. IU Health offers a range of services within the health system, including:
- Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is more sensitive than other detection tools. It is often the best tool for women at greater risk for breast cancer.
- Breast ultrasound. Live imaging of breast tissue is especially useful for distinguishing between solid and fluid-filled lumps in the breast.
- Digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT). This three-dimensional imaging technology is particularly useful for diagnosing cancer in dense breast tissue.
- Digital mammography. This front-line technology provides highly accurate imaging of breast tissue.
Each person has special treatment needs that require a unique combination of techniques and medications, plus support services to help maintain quality of life.
We use surgical and nonsurgical procedures to treat the cancer. In all cases, we are highly sensitive to the need to preserve the shape of the breast as much as possible. Your treatment may include:
- Lumpectomy. Removal of a lump is often done through a tiny incision to preserve the shape of the breast. Sometimes we need to remove a large amount of breast tissue. Plastic surgery can often rebuild the shape of the breast (a breast prosthesis) and help restore the body’s natural balance and posture.
- Sentinel node biopsy. Breast cancer can spread (metastasize) through the lymphatic system (a second circulatory system that fights infection). With this procedure, we can see how far the cancer may have metastasized by removing some nodes under your arm. It involves less extensive surgery and the removal of fewer lymph nodes than traditional lymph node surgery. This helps us determine the best treatment plan for you.
- Mastectomy. This is the surgical removal of one or both breasts, either partially or completely. Which surgery you have is determined by you and your physician and depends on the stage of cancer, size of the tumor and size of the breast. Sometimes we need to remove all breast tissue and possibly the skin and nipple. We use advanced techniques to reconstruct the breast to regain as natural a shape as possible. Many women have breast reconstruction to rebuild the breast after a mastectomy.
- Chemotherapy. This treatment uses cancer-killing drugs that are given intravenously (injected into a vein) or by mouth. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells. Chemo is given in cycles with a recovery period after each round of treatment. Your physician determines when and how often you receive chemo. Treatment usually lasts for several months. Chemotherapy drugs are very effective at killing breast cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy. Hormones normally present in your body can affect the growth of breast cancer. Hormone therapy is used to treat both early and advanced breast cancer. It works by slowing or blocking the body’s ability to produce hormones. This therapy is also used to prevent breast cancer in women who are at high risk of developing this disease. Tumors that are hormone-insensitive do not respond to hormone therapy.
- Radiation. This is a targeted and highly effective way to destroy cancer cells in the breast that may remain after surgery. We can target breast tumors and areas with cancer cells using highly focused radiation. A radiation oncologist specializing in radiation therapy oversees your treatment. Another treatment method places the radiation source directly into the cancerous area reducing damage to surrounding tissue.
- Breast reconstruction. Prior to mastectomy, you may need to make the decision for or against reconstruction before going into surgery. Immediate reconstructive surgery is performed at the same time as mastectomy. A delayed reconstruction involves a separate operation to reconstruct missing breast tissue. Your plastic surgeon can develop a plan for balancing your breasts that may include reshaping your other breast.
Breast Cancer Locations & Physicians
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Breast Cancer Support Services
Learning about breast cancer may help you prevent it, find it early or find the right treatment. Use these resources to learn more about what you can do to help yourself or someone you love who has breast cancer or has a high risk for breast cancer.
A Sampling of Breast Cancer Support Services
This non-profit website offers extensive, well-organized information about prevention and treatment of breast cancer. It also has a variety of support resources that allow you to connect with other women with similar experiences.
Centers for Disease Control
This U.S. government website provides in depth information about breast cancer.
National Breast Cancer Foundation
The mission of the NBCF is to save lives through education and by providing mammograms for women who cannot afford them. The site offers information about breast cancer and provides opportunities to take action to help other women.
National Cancer Institute
This national website offers extensive resources to educate you about breast cancer.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
The originators of the pink ribbon campaign, Susan G. Komen is active in education, research, advocacy and support for women with breast cancer. The website offers extensive resources and opportunities to take action in the fight against breast cancer.