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If you or a loved one is facing a diagnosis of breast cancer, you need a team of experts to help you through your next steps. Mercy’s multispecialty team of physicians and breast cancer specialists provide advanced diagnostic and treatment services, and a community of support.
Screening tests and exams help detect breast cancer earlier when it’s easier to treat. There are several types of breast screening including mammograms, self-exams and clinical breast exams. Beginning at age 19, women should perform regular breast self-exams and have a clinical breast exam by a Mercy doctor or Mercy OB/GYN annually. Clinical breast exams help detect lumps, pain or other changes in the breast and are an important part of early detection.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the following screening guidelines for breast cancer:
Imaging is used to diagnose as well as evaluate the stage and extent of breast cancer. Three imaging methods are used to find breast cancer: mammography, ultrasonography and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
A breast biopsy is performed when cancer is suspected during a mammogram, clinical breast exam or other imaging tests. Mercy offers several types of biopsy to detect breast cancer.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or you’ve been diagnosed yourself, your Mercy doctor may recommend genetic counseling or testing. Breast cancer genetic testing lets you know if you’ve inherited genes linked to breast cancer risk.
Mercy physicians and breast cancer specialists treat women and men with all types and stages of breast cancer. Our personalized care addresses your needs in body, mind and spirit. Depending on your age, along with the type and stage of your cancer, your breast cancer treatment plan may include one or more of the following treatment options.
Local therapy treats a specific (local) area of breast cancer without affecting the rest of the body. Local treatment for breast cancer typically includes surgery, which is sometimes followed by radiation therapy to the breast and nearby lymph nodes.
The most common form of treatment for breast cancer is surgery. There are two main types of surgery to remove breast cancer breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy. Mercy also offers breast reconstruction procedures that can be performed at the same time as lumpectomy or mastectomy in some cases.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells and is used in many different situations for women with breast cancer. There are two main types of radiation often used to treat breast cancer: external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy.
Systemic therapies are medicines that travel throughout the body to treat cancer and can be administered orally or directly via the bloodstream. Different types of drug treatment may be used depending on the type of breast cancer. Systemic treatments for breast cancer include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
Chemotherapy is used to treat all stages of breast cancer, including recurrent and metastatic breast cancer. Not all breast cancer patients will benefit from chemo, however, there are several cases when it may be recommended such as before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy), after surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) and for advanced breast cancer.
Hormone therapy, also known as hormonal therapy, hormone treatment and endocrine therapy, slows or stops the growth of hormone-sensitive cancers. It does by hormone production or interfering with hormone receptors on cancer cells. It is more targeted than chemotherapy. For example, anti-estrogen therapy blocks the estrogen stimulation of cancer cells.
Targeted cancer therapies are treatments that target and act on specific molecules (molecular targets) that help cancer grow and spread. Targeted therapies are very focused and work differently than chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. An example of targeted therapies used is anti-HER2 therapies which target the HER2 protein on cancer cells.
Immunotherapy also called biologic therapy, is the use of medicine to help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. It can work in different ways, either by boosting immunity or changing how it functions. Immunotherapy can be used to treat some types of breast cancer but not all.
At Mercy, you’ll have a breast cancer nurse navigator to guide you throughout your care. Nurse Navigators explain tests and treatments, make referrals to oncology specialists and surgeons, provide educational materials and connect you with support resources.
From diagnosis to recovery, Mercy offers expert cancer care for all types and stages of breast cancer.