Understanding Breast Cancer

Make an impact! Join Indiana University Health as we participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Whether you walk or cheer, join one of the largest Race for the Cure teams in the nation as we raise funds and awareness to fight breast cancer. It’s not just about wearing pink: know your risks, schedule a screening and become a survivor. Find out more at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure website.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and every day our mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, grandmothers, cousins and friends are affected.

IU Health Cancer Centers are Indiana’s largest network of geographically-diverse cancer specialists with expertise in medical, radiation, reconstructive surgery and surgical oncology. Related through the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated patient care center – the IU Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center – we bring together leading-edge clinical care and innovative cancer research.

IU Health offers the latest in prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer. Our multidisciplinary team consists of national and international leaders in breast cancer care and research. The team specializes in treating breast cancer in very young patients, as well as rare and advanced cases. You have assurance that our highly skilled physicians, nurses, dieticians, physical therapists, spiritual care chaplains, social workers and pharmacists will work with you and your loved ones to develop the best course of treatment for your illness.

With a strong emphasis on translating research to clinical application, IU Health turns development and participation in cutting edge clinical trials into real results. Whether you are newly diagnosed, or well on the road to recovery, count on IU Health for the best in breast cancer care.

IU Health Physicians

These IU Health breast cancer physicians will be at the Central Indiana Komen Race for the Cure to answer questions from participants as well as those who participate in our live Twitter chat.

Monet W. Bowling, MD
Monet W Bowling, MD
Specialty: Breast Surgery

Jason R. Cacioppo, MD
Jason R Cacioppo, MD
Specialty: Plastic Surgery

John A. Cox, MD
John A Cox, MD
Specialty: Radiation Oncology

Linda K. Han, M.D.
Linda K. Han, M.D.
Specialty: Surgical Oncology, Breast Surgery

Bryan P. Schneider, MD
Bryan P Schneider, MD
Specialty: Specialty: Hematology - Oncology

Breast Cancer Defined 

Breast cancer is a disease that occurs when cells within the breast become abnormal. The abnormal cells then divide and multiply without control to produce more cells and eventually form a cancerous tumor.

The most common form of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, in which cancerous cells originate in the ducts that move milk from the breast to the nipple. Lobular carcinoma, another form of breast cancer, starts in the lobules of the breast, where milk is produced. In rare cases, breast cancer can start in other areas of the breast.

Noninvasive breast cancer stays in one place, such as the milk duct or lobule tissue, and does not spread to other areas of the body. When cancer spreads to nearby healthy tissues, it is classified as invasive and is more serious.

Who Gets Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer can affect anyone. In fact, over 226,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Several risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing breast cancer. Some risk factors cannot be controlled. These include:

  • A family history of breast cancer
  • Previously having breast cancer yourself
  • A genetic mutation that predisposes you to breast cancer
  • Long-term combination hormone replacement therapy
  • Radiation to the chest and back neck at a young age
  • Early onset of menstruation and late menopause
  • Never having children or first child after age 30
  • Abnormal cells present in a breast biopsy

Risk factors that you can control include:

  • Obesity and lack of exercise
  • Having more than three alcoholic drinks per week
  • Smoking 
Tracy Jaisle

Tracy's Story

Tracy Jaisle went from a healthy 38 year-old who ran three times a week to a woman with stage-2 breast cancer… all within a week and a half. Tracy says she approached her cancer treatment much like she did the “birth plan” for her two children: with diligence, planning and plenty of support.

View full article on how Tracy became passionate about breast cancer awareness and cancer detection.

Breast Reconstruction

Finding New Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer

At IU Health, we are focused not only on detection and treatment, but prevention of breast cancer. Through the formation of the Komen Tissue Bank, the only normal breast tissue bio-repository bank in the world, we’re helping researchers understand how breast cancer starts. The Catherine Peachey Breast Cancer Prevention Program provides education and genetic counseling to identify women with mutations that cause breast cancer, assessing their risk and taking steps toward early detection and prevention.

For all women, the single most important way to catch early, noninvasive breast cancer early before it progresses is through regular self and physician performed breast exams. You may not experience any symptoms with early breast cancer, so self breast exams, in addition to regular mammograms as directed by your health care provider, are vital.

As breast cancer grows, symptoms such as a lump in the breast, change in size or feel or of the breast or nipple, or discharge coming from the nipple may be present. Although breast cancer primarily affects women, men can get breast cancer, too. In men, the most common symptoms are lumps and breast tenderness.

You don’t have to sit back and wait for breast cancer to strike. In addition to performing monthly self breast exams, take the following steps to stay healthy and prevent breast cancer:

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes each day
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet, including seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit hormone replacement therapy to two to three years at the lowest dose

Detecting Cancer Sooner

Early diagnosis is the most effective tool for breast cancer survival. At IU Health, our tailored breast cancer prevention program enables women with a high risk of breast cancer to participate in early and intensive screening to detect cancers at the earliest curable stage. Advanced technologies and screening services available at IU Health include:

  • Digital Mammography, a first line of screening to identify breast lumps.
  • Breast Ultrasound, effective at distinguishing whether a lump is solid or fluid-filled.
  • Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) is advanced technology with the superior ability to detect early breast cancer in women with especially dense breast tissue. Revealing cancers that would otherwise not be detected with standard 2D mammography, DBT reduces unnecessary duplicate screenings by minimizing false findings views of pseudolesions (non-threatening lesions that mimic tumors) formed by overlapping normal breast tissue.
  • Breast MRI is the most sensitive test available, detecting cancers that mammograms and ultrasound may miss, and making it the best choice for women at high risk.
  • At IU Health, all breast imaging is interpreted by specialty trained breast radiologists. Specialty training reduces the likelihood that a breast cancer will be missed. We offer the only training program in Indiana for the next generation of radiologists specializing in breast imaging.
  • If a diagnosis of breast cancer is made, more tests will be conducted in order to determine your stage of cancer and help guide future treatment plans. Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV, with stage IV being more advanced. 
Breast Reconstruction

Breast Reconstruction

When dealing with breast cancer, the main goal is to provide the highest possibility of cure, but also to provide the best cosmetic outcome. Dr. Linda Han, discusses how this two-fold goal is best achieved with a multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer patients, as well as new surgical techniques such as skin sparing mastectomy.


Taking Action Through Treatment

No matter what stage of breast cancer you’re diagnosed with, you want to access to the most advanced treatments. IU Health has extensive experience treating all stages of breast cancer, including rare and aggressive cancers. Our multidisciplinary team includes medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists and reconstructive surgeons,
all top in their field.

Treatment options for breast cancer may include:

  • Minimally invasive biopsy
  • Targeted Chemotherapy medication to kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy, including partial breast radiation and hypofractionated radiation,
  • for shorter exposure
  • Specialized surgical procedures such as small scar lumpectomy to remove a breast lump, mastectomy to remove all or part of the breast and affected nearby tissue, skin sparing, mastectomy and complete skin sparing mastectomy with preservation of nipple 

Treatment does not end once the cancer has been removed. For most women, breast reconstruction is an option. IU Health offers advanced reconstruction techniques, including DIEP flaps.