Breast Cancer Treatment

Family Two Women Mother and Daughter Cancer

Penn Medicine's Cancer Center provides the most comprehensive breast cancer treatment options available today.

Our breast cancer specialists are part of a multidisciplinary team of experts that include surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, breast cancer nurses, advanced practice providers and support specialists such as social workers and psychologists. We work together to create treatment plans specific to your unique needs, diagnosis and medical history. 

Most breast cancer patients are treated with one or more of the following.

Surgery for Breast Cancer

For most women with breast cancer, surgery will be part of the treatment plan. We understand that the prospect of surgery is frightening, but assure you are in good hands with Penn Medicine. 

Our breast surgeons are leaders in their field. We perform the highest volume of breast cancer surgeries in Philadelphia, averaging more than 800 annually. Our surgeons collaborate with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical geneticists and plastic surgeons to help prevent breast cancer, treat breast cancer and reconstruct your breasts after surgery.

Types of Breast Cancer Surgery

Your surgical options may include a lumpectomy (a breast-conserving surgery), a mastectomy, or a mastectomy with breast reconstruction. You and your surgeon will discuss which of these surgeries is the right for you.

Lumpectomy

A lumpectomy is a surgery that removes just the cancer and a small area of normal breast tissue. The removal of a healthy breast tissue is a best practice to reduce the risk of cancer growing back in the same breast.

Mastectomy

Mastectomy is a surgery that refers to the removal of the entire breast to treat cancer. The most common type of mastectomy is referred to as total mastectomy, or simple mastectomy which removes the entire breast, including breast tissue, nipple, areola and most of the skin covering the breast. Other types include a modified radical mastectomy, skin-sparing mastectomy and a nipple-sparing mastectomy.

Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. For breast cancer patients, we offer both photon radiation and proton therapy radiation. Currently, we are the only National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center to have a fully integrated proton therapy center.

For more information:


Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to attack cancer cells, slowing or stopping their ability to grow and multiply.Chemotherapy is usually given:
  • Orally: taking pills or capsules by mouth
  • Intravenously (IV): injecting medication into a vein
  • Intramuscularly (IM): injecting medication into a muscle
  • Subcutaneously: injecting medication under the skin

Chemotherapy is not a "one-size-fits-all" cancer treatment. The wide range of cancer-fighting drugs attack different types of cancer cells at varying stages of cell development.

Penn medical oncologists are experts at determining which drug or combination of drugs will be the most effective in treating your breast cancer.

Hormone Therapy

Estrogen promotes the growth of about two out of three breast cancers — those containing estrogen receptors (ER-positive cancers) and/or progesterone receptors (PR-positive cancers). Because of this, several approaches to blocking the effect of estrogen or lowering estrogen levels are used to treat ER-positive and PR-positive breast cancers. Hormone therapy does not help patients whose tumors are both ER- and PR-negative.

Hormone therapy is used to help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence after surgery in cancers that are ER and/or PR positive. Hormone therapy is not the same as hormone replacement therapy used after menopause. Certain types of hormone replacement therapy are associated with increasing risk for breast cancer. Hormone therapy for IDC is anti-estrogen therapy and decreases the risk of cancer recurrence.

Clinical Trials for Breast Cancer

Today, more and more people are surviving cancer. Clinical trials benefit patients with access to breakthrough therapies and treatments. These new advances in cancer treatment are occurring every day at Penn Medicine, giving patients hope that even greater discoveries lie ahead.

Immunotherapy

  • Target specific cancer cells, thereby potentially avoiding damage to normal cells
  • Make cancer cells easier for the immune system to recognize and destroy
  • Prevent or slow tumor growth and spread of cancer cells

Integrative Oncology Services for Breast Cancer

While conventional medicine plays a critical role in eradicating cancer, integrative medicine and wellness programs offer you and your family ways to minimize or reduce the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, and promote healing and recovery. These therapies do not have curative intent, and are designed to complement standard treatments — not take their place.

We are knowledgeable of and support complementary cancer treatments. Our cancer teams work with patients and families to integrate these supportive programs into the overall care plan, while ensuring the safety and health of patients.

Our integrative supportive services include: