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The Komen Mission:
To eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by advancing research, education, screening, and treatment.

Breast Cancer



There has been tremendous progress in the early detection and successful treatment of breast cancer. From the time a breast cancer is found, women have a number of options. Each breast cancer is as different as the individual woman who is diagnosed. Because of this, the treatment that is best for each woman will vary. Women are urged to become knowledgeable about their treatment options and to partner with their health-care providers in choosing treatment.



: this surgical procedure removes the breast lump and may be followed by radiation therapy. Some of the underarm lymph nodes may be removed and tested for the possible spread of the cancer.

Partial or Segmental Mastectomy: This surgical procedure removes the tumor plus a wedge of normal tissue surrounding it, including some skin and sometimes the lining of the chest muscle below the tumor. It may be followed by radiation therapy. Underarm lymph nodes are checked for the possible spread of cancer.


Total or simple mastectomy: this surgical procedure removes only the breast. Sometimes a few of the underarm nodes are removed to see if the cancer has spread. It may be followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.

Modified radical mastectomy: this surgical procedure removes the breast, the underarm lymph nodes, and the lining over the chest muscle. It may be followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.


The number of lymph nodes removed varies in each woman. The SENTINEL NODE technique is used to determine how many lymph nodes need to be removed. The tumor site is injected with a blue dye and/or a radioisotope which flows to the first lymph node (sentinel node). This node is removed. If there are no cancer cells in the sentinel node, no further nodes may need to be removed. If the sentinel node has cancer cells, then more lymph nodes may be removed. Minimal node removal may help prevent a condition called Lymphedema.


A surgical procedure in which the lymph nodes in the armpit (axillary nodes) are removed and examined to find out if breast cancer has spread to those nodes.


Adjuvant Treatment for breast cancer is added to increase the effectiveness of the primary therapy and may include the following:

Radiation therapy: treatment with high-energy x rays to kill cancer cells. This type of treatment may be used to reduce the size of a cancer before surgery, or to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery.

Chemotherapy: treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used in addition to surgery and radiation. It is sometimes used before surgery or to treat cancer that has come back (recurred).

Hormone therapy: treatment of cancer by removing, blocking or adding hormones.


Women with breast cancer have many questions and concerns. Their doctor is the best person to answer questions about breast cancer and how it can be treated and how successful the treatment is expected to be. It can be very helpful to prepare a list of questions to discuss with the doctor and health-care team.

Questions patients may want to ask about surgery:

Why is surgery necessary?
• What are the possible side effects and risks?
• Would you recommend radiation or chemotherapy treatment first?
• Am I a candidate for a sentinel node procedure?
• How long will it take me to recover from surgery?
• Will I have pain, and how will it be managed?
• What can I expect my recovery experience to be like?
• Will my insurance cover all the costs of the surgery?
• What is my follow-up care, and for how long?

Questions patients may want to ask about treatment:

• What are my treatment options?
• What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
• What are the risks of each kind of treatment?
• What are the possible side effects of each treatment, and how will they be managed?
• What is the follow-up care for each treatment?
• Would a clinical trial be appropriate for me?
• Will my day-to-day activity level change?
• If I have pain or discomfort, how will it be managed?
• What are the possibilities of recurrence?
• What is my follow-up care, and for how long?

Partner with your doctor:

• Learn about breast cancer from books, from the public library, or on the Internet. visit one of Orange County’s Cancer Resource Centers or attend a breast cancer support group.
• Bring a family member or friend to your doctors appointments.
• Ask a lot of questions. Write them down and bring them with you to your doctors appointments.
• Write down the answers or bring a tape recorder.
• Ask for and keep copies of your medical records as you go through treatment.

Second Opinions:

• Some insurance companies require a second opinion before surgery.
• Ask if a second opinion is covered by your insurance.
• A second opinion that confirms your doctor’s recommendation may make you feel more confident
in the decisions you are making.
• If the second opinion differs, ask why.
• If the first two doctors have different opinions and you are still unclear about what to do, there is nothing wrong with seeking a third opinion.


Loss of appetite is sometimes a side effect of treatment. It is important to eat well during treatment to maintain energy, help in healing, and to support your immune system.

Make sure you let your health-care team know of any special diet or any supplements you are taking, including vitamins, as they may interfere with your medications and/or treatment.

Studies have shown that exercise can help reduce the fatigue felt by many women during treatment.

Remember, educate yourself as best you can on your condition and the treatments for it. If you know in advance what your options are, you can ask better questions and get more specific answers from your health-care team.