Breast cancer ranges from early/noninvasive to more aggressive types that can spread to other parts of the body. Typically found in women, breast cancer can also affect men, although at much lower rates. At UCHealth facilities, a caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you. You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through breast cancer treatment and aftercare.
Our UCHealth complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment.
Breast cancer treatments
Treatment depends on the type of cancer and the location and stage of the cancer. There are many different ways to treat cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow our doctors to target tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
In breast cancer, chemotherapy most often is given before or after surgery. It also may be the main treatment for cancer that has spread outside the breast.
Chemotherapy or “chemo” is a medication given to:
- Stop cancer cells from growing or spreading to other parts of the body
- Slow the growth or destroy cancer cells
- Help ease cancer symptoms
Chemotherapy works by attacking and killing rapidly dividing/growing cells, like cancer cells.
Targeted therapies are drug treatments that help the body’s immune system fight cancer. Herceptin®is a type of biologic therapy that targets cells that produce too much of a protein called HER2. This protein is present in some breast cancer patients. Herceptin binds to the cells, shutting off HER2 production.
Hormone therapy sometimes helps prevent female hormones (estrogen, progesterone and estradiol) from fueling the growth of breast cancer. Hormone therapy can involve taking drugs by mouth or through an IV. Tamoxifen® is an example of a hormone therapy drug.
Surgery to remove the ovaries in women who have not yet reached menopause is another type of hormone therapy.
Breast cancer surgery, performed by a surgical oncologist who specializes in removal of breast cancer through an operation, is often the initial treatment for breast cancer. A plastic surgeon may then perform breast cancer reconstructive surgery. If cancer is located in one area (localized), surgery may be the best option. Surgery is most successful when cancer has not spread to other areas.
Staging is the process of finding out how much cancer is in a person’s body and where it is located. Your doctor will determine the stage of your cancer. Your stage will depend on many factors such as:
- Where the tumor is located in the body.
- The cell type.
- Size of the tumor.
- If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Tumor grade, which refers to how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how likely the tumor is to grow and spread.
Clinical trials for breast cancer: developing the future of medicine
Advances in medicine come from new ideas developed through clinical research. At UCHealth, we conduct hundreds of clinical trials (also called research trials or research studies) in our ongoing effort to discover and deliver more effective treatments. Our goal is to translate discoveries made in the laboratory to patients as quickly as possible.