Breast Cancer Treatments
The breast cancer care team at The University of Kansas Cancer Center is committed to providing you with compassionate, comprehensive and personalized care.
We develop a treatment plan based on your individual needs and your particular type of cancer. Our multidisciplinary team of breast cancer specialists works together to tailor a treatment plan specifically suited to your needs. Your team meets weekly to discuss your care and compare it to nationally established guidelines, coordinating treatment strategies for each individual.
When working with our breast cancer care team, your treatment plan may include:
- Breast cancer surgery (mastectomy or lumpectomy)
- Breast reconstruction
- Medical oncology
- Chemotherapy and/or radiation
Treatments for breast cancer
As the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the region, our breast cancer specialists provide the most advanced diagnostic, medical and surgical care for those with breast cancer. This exceptional care includes a team of highly specialized interventional radiologists who offer some of the most advanced diagnostic imaging capabilities available, including minimally invasive biopsies. In fact, among women who get a second opinion for breast cancer at an NCI-designated cancer center, 43% have a change in diagnosis.
Before beginning treatment, we will discuss preventive steps that may be appropriate for your care plan:
- Reproductive medicine services: Many cancer treatments can cause temporary or permanent infertility. To ensure the best chances for conception after treatment, we can help you to take steps to preserve your fertility before receiving chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
- Onco-psychology services: We assist you and your family with emotional support before, during and following treatment.
- Comprehensive cancer care services: We provide nutrition, social work, rehabilitation, personal appearance, wellness, financial and survivorship services as additional support.
The most common types of breast surgery include:
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy to remove 1 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 1 and 2 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 1 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.
Having a mastectomy is physically and emotionally difficult. Your care team will talk with you before your mastectomy to answer your questions and ensure you are comfortable with your choices. We offer skin-sparing procedures and advanced techniques to provide the best results possible and minimize the need for additional surgery and radiation. We also monitor your progress after surgery to limit the potential for developing lymphedema.
If you are having a mastectomy and are interested in breast reconstruction surgery, we will arrange a consultation with one of our breast reconstruction surgeons. He or she will discuss your options based on your particular type of breast cancer and treatment plan.
Our breast surgical oncologists and breast reconstruction surgeons collaborate frequently, and often work in tandem so that reconstruction begins when the mastectomy is performed.
In some instances, your doctor may advise systemic treatment (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and/or targeted therapy) before you have surgery. The advantages include the potential to reduce a tumor’s size and allow for a lumpectomy.
Our breast 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 or even pregnancy.
Breast cancer is commonly treated with chemotherapy, medication that stops or slows the growth of cancer cells. Your oncologist may also use targeted therapies and hormonal treatments, depending on the stage and type of breast cancer.
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 typically well-tolerated 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 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 administers the traditional amount of radiation in a shorter time period. Fewer treatment days can be easier for you to schedule, so completing the full course of treatment also becomes easier.
We were the first cancer care team in the Kansas City metro region to use radioactive breast seed localization. This presurgical procedure is more comfortable than other forms of localization and gives you more options in scheduling your surgery. Additionally, you benefit with a shorter surgery, less discomfort and faster healing.
Guided by mammography or ultrasound, a breast radiologist injects tiny, low-energy radioactive seeds into the cancerous tumor. 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.
Clinical trials for breast cancer
We encourage you to talk to your doctor about 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.
Life after breast cancer
At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we treat the whole person, not just your disease. We provide a comprehensive array of 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 breast cancer survivorship services.
In addition, Turning Point, 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.