Breast Cancer Treatment Steps

The comprehensive breast cancer care team at The University of Kansas Cancer Center is committed to providing you with compassionate, comprehensive and personalized care. 

Personalized patient care

We develop a treatment plan based on your individual needs and your particular type of cancer. Our multidisciplinary team of breast cancer specialists   ̶  medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists  ̶  collaborates to tailor a treatment plan specifically suited to your needs. 

Our breast cancer specialists meet weekly at a tumor conference, where they discuss your care and compare it to nationally established guidelines. This multidisciplinary team of specialists creates and coordinates treatment strategies for each patient. 

Clinical trials

We encourage our patients to take part in clinical research trials. Many of these studies are initiated by our own breast cancer investigators, who design and implement the research as we work to provide the most advanced breast cancer care. Through these trials, we evaluate potential new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating breast cancer. 

Advanced treatments

Our breast cancer specialists provide the most advanced medical and surgical care for breast cancer patients. As the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in the region, our interventional radiologists offer some of the most advanced diagnostic imaging capabilities available, including minimally invasive biopsies

Radioactive breast seed localization

We were first in the region to use radioactive breast seed localization or RSL. This patient-friendly presurgical procedure is more comfortable than other forms of localization and allows patients more options in scheduling their surgery. Additionally, patients benefit with shorter surgeries, less discomfort and faster healing.

Sixty-four-year-old Sandra Redford chose radioactive seed localization, an innovative procedure, as part of surgery to remove a breast tumor. Learn more about Sandra's results.Guided by mammography or ultrasound, a breast radiologist injects tiny, low-energy radioactive seeds into the cancer area. About the size of a grain of rice, each seed is detected by a gamma meter and can be seen by the surgeon on ultrasound during surgery. When the seed is removed with the cancerous tissue, no radioactivity remains in the body. Read one patient’s story about her experience with RSL.

As a patient of our comprehensive breast cancer care team, your treatment plan may include:

  • Breast cancer surgery
  • Breast reconstruction
  • Medical oncology 

Breast cancer surgery

The most common types of breast surgery include: 

  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy to remove one or more of the first draining lymph nodes nearest the tumor to determine whether cancer cells have spread beyond the breast. 

  • Auxiliary lymph node dissection to remove the level I and II lymph nodes below the auxiliary vein and close to the breast. 

  • Lumpectomy to remove the cancer with a rim (or margin) of normal tissue. Lumpectomy may be an option when the cancer is localized to one area of the breast. In most cases, radiation treatment is recommended following lumpectomy. 

  • Mastectomy to remove the entire breast if the cancer has spread beyond a single mass or when early stage cancer exists in multiple locations. There are four types of mastectomy: total, modified, skin sparing and nipple sparing. We offer skin-sparing procedures and advanced techniques to provide the best results possible and minimize the need for additional surgery and radiation. 

Breast reconstruction 

If you are having a mastectomy and are interested in reconstruction, we will arrange a consultation with one of our breast reconstruction surgeons. He/she will discuss your options based on your particular type of breast cancer and treatment plan. 

Having a mastectomy is a physically and emotionally difficult. Your care team will talk with you before your mastectomy to answer your questions and ensure that you are comfortable with your choices. 

Our surgical oncologists and breast reconstruction surgeons collaborate frequently, and often work in tandem so that reconstruction begins when the mastectomy is performed. 

Learn more about our breast reconstruction options

Medical oncology

Our medical oncologists are nationally and internationally recognized. They will discuss treatment options with you and personalize your care to the type and stage of your disease. Additionally, they will tailor your treatment to other health issues you may have, such as a heart condition, diabetes, even pregnancy. 

Breast cancer is commonly treated with chemotherapy, a medication that stops or slows the growth of cancer cells. Your oncologist may also use targeted therapies and hormonal treatments, depending on the type and stage of your breast cancer. 

Before beginning treatment, we will discuss preventive steps that may be appropriate for your care plan. This includes: 

  • Reproductive medicine services. Many cancer treatments can cause temporary or permanent infertility. To ensure the best chances for conception after treatment, patients must take steps to preserve their fertility before receiving chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. 

  • Onco-psychology services to assist you and your family with emotional support before, during and following treatment. 

  • Comprehensive cancer care services such as nutrition, social work, rehabilitation, personal appearance, wellness, financial and survivorship. 

Systemic treatment prior to surgery 

In some instances, breast cancer patients may be advised to receive systemic treatment (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and/or targeted therapy) before having surgery. The advantages include the potential to reduce a tumor’s size and allow for a lumpectomy. 

Radiation treatment 

Radiation therapy ̶ also called radiotherapy  ̶  is a highly targeted and highly effective way to destroy cancer cells in the breast that may linger after surgery. Radiation therapy is relatively easy to tolerate and its side effects are limited to the treated area. Your care team’s radiation oncologist will oversee your radiation treatments. 

Radiation may be used in addition to chemotherapy and surgery or to reduce a tumor’s size before surgery. Radiation therapy after mastectomy or lumpectomy reduces the chance of disease recurrence and improves long-term survival. 

We use the most advanced equipment and techniques to deliver radiation to your breast tumor(s), while avoiding exposure to normal tissues. This includes hypofractionated whole-breast radiation, which involves administering the traditional amount of radiation in a shorter time period. 

The benefits of hypofractionated whole-breast radiation include: 

  • Convenience: Arranging trips for daily treatment can be challenging. Fewer treatment days may be easier to schedule.

  • Improved patient compliance: If radiation treatment is easier to schedule, it’s more likely that patients will get all of the recommended radiation therapy. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and radiation therapy will be part of your treatment plan, talk with your doctor about hypofractionated whole-breast radiation. 

Treating the whole person 

Turning Point: A Community Resource of The University of Kansas Health System

At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we treat the whole person not just your disease. We provide a comprehensive array of breast cancer support services including educational resources, social workers, onco-psychology, genetic and financial counseling, rehabilitation, nutrition management, personal appearance services, support groups and wellness programs and survivorship services. 

In addition Turning Point: The Center for Hope and Healing, a program of The University of Kansas Health System, offers cancer-related wellness programs and educational classes. Turning Point provides empowering educational programs at no charge, as well as programs for children of all ages.