The statistics are staggering—one in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. Despite advances made in breast cancer treatment, early detection remains the best way to fight the disease. If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, rest assured that Gundersen offers excellent, compassionate care.
We use a model of care that surrounds the patient with a team of specialists, using a coordinated approach that results in fast diagnosis, a streamlined treatment pathway and the best treatment options.
Women should have a mammogram starting at age 40. Younger women who are more at risk for breast cancer are urged to talk with their primary care provider about having their first mammogram earlier. Your primary care provider can also help you determine how often you should have screenings done in subsequent years. Women who are at increased risk of developing cancer may benefit from an appointment with a cancer geneticist within our High Risk Breast Clinic.
A diagnostic mammogram may be necessary to get a closer look at any suspicious areas that show on a screening mammogram. Fortunately, of the approximately ten percent of women recalled after a screening mammogram for additional evaluation only a small number will prove to have cancer.
In addition to making sure you are getting any recommended screenings, performing regular breast self-examinations can help you stay on top of any changes in your breasts. Catching any abnormalities in your breasts early can lead to better outcomes.
Types of breast cancer
There are several types of breast cancer, including:
- Ductal carcinoma - Ductal carcinoma is the most common breast cancer and begins in the lining of the ducts.
- Lobular carcinoma - Lobular carcinoma is a common breast cancer which occurs in the milk-producing glands known as the lobules.
- Paget disease - Paget disease is a rare form of breast cancer that begins in the glands in, or under, the skin. It is often characterized by inflamed, red patches on the skin. Because Paget disease often originates from breast duct cancer, the eczema-like cancer usually appears around the nipple.
- Inflammatory breast cancer - Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of invasive breast cancer. Usually there is no lump or tumor. This cancer makes the breast skin look red, feel warm and become thick and pitted like an orange peel.
- Triple negative breast cancers - Triple negative breast cancers are breast cancers—often invasive ductal carcinomas—that do not have estrogen receptors or progesterone receptors, and do not have an excess of the HER2 protein on the cancer cell surfaces. These breast cancers tend to occur more often in younger women and in African American women. They tend to grow and spread faster than other types of breast cancer.
When breast cancer spreads outside the breast (metastasizes), cancer cells are often found in the lymph nodes under the arm. If the cancer has reached these nodes, it may mean that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body so additional testing will be performed.
Cancer that spreads is the same disease and has the same name as the original or primary cancer. When breast cancer spreads, it is called metastatic breast cancer, even though the secondary tumor is in another location.
Symptoms we treat
Breast cancer often has no symptoms in the early stages. Women with early breast cancer usually do not feel pain or notice any symptoms. Screening tests are better able to detect the disease at this time. As the cancer grows, however, it can cause some noticeable changes. These symptoms may be caused by breast cancer or by other, less serious conditions. It is important to check with a doctor to be sure.
Treatments we offer
Gundersen's cancer team believes in discussing all effective treatment options with patients, carefully explaining benefits and risks. Patient cases are also discussed weekly at a breast cancer conference attended by breast radiologists, surgeons, a geneticist, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and others to come up with the best treatment options for patients.
Breast Cancer Surgery
Breast cancer surgery is often a part of a treatment plan for those with breast cancer. The type of surgery will be determined after considering your situation and preferences for care.
- Lumpectomy - Lumpectomy is surgery to remove cancer. It is a breast-conserving surgery, which means your breast remains intact.
- Mastectomy - Mastectomy is a surgical procedure in which all or a portion of a breast is removed. Breast reconstruction surgery may be performed—either at the time of the mastectomy or at a later date.
Chemotherapy may be done in addition to surgery. Chemotherapy uses medications to attack cancer cells. It is considered systemic therapy because it works throughout the body. It's usually done on an outpatient basis. You may receive the medication in pill form or through an IV or infusion pump—a device that slowly releases medication into your bloodstream.
- Standard whole breast radiation - External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is the most common way to have radiation therapy for breast cancer. It is typically aimed at the whole breast, and is given five days a week for about six weeks.
- Accelerated whole breast radiation - The standard approach of getting radiation for five days a week over many weeks can be inconvenient. Some doctors are now giving slightly larger daily doses using fewer overall treatments.
- Brachytherapy - Brachytherapy is radiation therapy that is given inside the patient, as close to the cancer as possible. The radiation dose is concentrated on the cancer cells, so less damage is done to the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Partial breast irradiation techniques (IMRT) - Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a cutting-edge form of radiation therapy that shapes a treatment beam to fit the contours of its cancerous target. High radiation doses can be delivered to a tumor while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.
- Prone breast positioning - Prone breast positioning means radiation is delivered while lying on your stomach. This technique was developed to improve delivery of the radiation and to spare surrounding healthy tissue.
- Respiratory gating - Respiratory gating continuously monitors the movement of tumors during normal breathing. It allows radiation to be delivered only when the tumor is exactly in the correct place. The radiation beam turns off when the tumor moves out of the target region.