Breast Cancer Treatment and Care
Breast cancer occurs when abnormal malignant cells form in tissues of the breast and develop a tumor. The types of breast cancer are categorized by whether the cancer begins in the ducts or lobules, the organs responsible for breast milk production.
Types of Breast Cancer
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
This is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. It is an early breast cancer that is confined to the inside of the ductal system. Most women with DCIS can be treated effectively with breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) and radiation therapy..
- Invasive (infiltrating) ductal carcinoma (IDC)
This is the most common breast cancer, accounting for nearly 80% of all malignancies. It starts in a milk passage or duct, breaks through the wall of the duct and invades the tissue of the breast. From there it may be able to spread to other parts of the body.
- Invasive (infiltrating) lobular carcinoma (ILC)
This cancer starts in the milk glands or lobules. It can spread to other parts of the body. About 1 out of 10 invasive breast cancers are of this type.
- Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive type of breast cancer that causes the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast to become blocked. This type of breast cancer is called "inflammatory" because the breast often looks swollen and red, or "inflamed". IBC accounts for 1% to 5% of all breast cancer cases in the United States.
- Medullary Carcinoma
Medullary carcinoma of the breast is a less common form of invasive breast cancer. It is a type of invasive ductal carcinoma that starts in your milk ducts. Medullary carcinoma accounts for 15% of all breast cancer types. It most frequently occurs in women in their late 40s and 50s.
Women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer more than any other type of cancer except for skin cancer. Each year it is estimated that nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. Approximately 1,700 men are diagnosed each year.
Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program
The Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program offers a range of diagnostic procedures, advanced treatment options, and personalized support services for women with suspected or diagnosed breast cancer.
Each patient receives an individualized treatment plan based on the stage of the breast cancer as well as their age, health and personal choices. Patients may obtain an outpatient second opinion with a Fox Chase Cancer Center oncologist who comes to Virtua to meet with the patient and family.
Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program’s interdisciplinary care teams are staffed by oncology experts including board-certified medical oncologists, breast surgeons and radiation oncologists. They have earned their fellowships at leading medical institutions like The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and Memorial-Sloan Kettering.
Oncology certified and advanced practice nurses provide expert treatment, support, and education to patients and their families. The interdisciplinary care team may also include:
- Radiation oncologists
- Clinical oncology social workers
- Dietitians and physical therapists
- Oncology nurse navigators
- Genetic counselors
Breast Cancer Treatment at Virtua
The Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program offers advanced treatment options, including:
- Radiology procedures such as breast MRI, interventional and nuclear radiology, CT scan, ultra-sonography and digital mammography.
- Prone Breast Board – Patients can now be treated lying face down. In this position, radiation to the heart and lungs may be minimized. Prone positioning may also improve skin reaction and cosmetic outcomes in larger breasted women. (Benefits vary on a case-by-case basis.)
- Minimally invasive techniques such as image-guided, sentinel lymph node and stereotactic biopsies.
- Lumpectomy – An operation that removes the cancerous area and a surrounding rim of healthy, normal tissue. Local treatment means treating the "whole breast" and not just the lump, so this procedure is usually followed by radiation therapy directed at the breast.
- Margin Probe – After a lumpectomy, the margin probe tests the remaining breast tissue for cancerous cells. If cancerous cells are detected, more tissue is removed. This newly FDA-approved technology has the potential to reduce the need for additional surgical procedures.
- Modified radical mastectomy (also called total mastectomy with axillary node dissection) – An operation that removes the breast (tissue, ducts, lobules, and fatty tissue), a portion of the skin with the nipple and lymph nodes under the arm.
- Total mastectomy (also called simple mastectomy) – An operation that removes the breast (tissue, ducts, lobules, and fatty tissue) and a portion of skin with the nipple.
- High dose rate (HDR) breast brachytherapy with the MammoSite® Radiation Therapy System – A treatment designed to conserve as much of the healthy breast tissue as possible while reducing the number of treatments
- Advanced options for reconstructive surgery performed by surgeons specializing in breast reconstruction
The breast cancer program at Virtua is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), which is administered by the American College of Surgeons. Accreditation by the NAPBC is only given to centers that have voluntarily committed to provide the highest level of quality breast care and that undergo a rigorous evaluation process and review of their performance.
Breast Cancer Care Navigation Program
The Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program offers a breast navigation service to help coordinate care and support breast cancer patients. When a patient has an abnormal mammogram, the gynecologist alerts the access navigator, who calls the patient to review options and expedite an appointment with a specialist.
If the specialist diagnoses breast cancer, the patient is assigned a nurse navigator who, within 48 hours, calls the patient to answer questions, make appointments and coordinate insurance. The navigator stays in contact during the patient's entire course of clinical care.
The navigator helps guide the patient to support services and other available resources through the Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program and within the community.
Two types of breast navigation services are available to help coordinate care and offer support during all phases of breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.
Breast Access Navigation: Guides patients from an abnormal mammogram through diagnosis. The gynecologist alerts the access navigator who calls the patient to answer questions, review options and expedite an appointment with a specialist
Nurse Navigation: Within 48 hours after a cancer diagnosis, the patient is assigned to a nurse navigator who stays in contact during the patient's entire course of clinical care and can help:
- Make appointments and coordinate care
- Explain the diagnosis, care plan and medications
- Streamline communication with physicians
- Connect patients to many cancer treatment services and resources
To find out more about this service, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 (1-888-847-8823).
Cancer Genetics Program
The Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program offers The Cancer Genetics Program to provide genetic testing for specific gene mutations that may increase a woman's risk for breast cancer. This testing helps women learn about the risk factors associated with breast cancer and how their family history may increase their risk.