Breast cancer develops when there is loss of control in the division and growth of breast cells. In general, tumors in the breast tend to grow slowly. There are a smaller number of breast tumors that are more aggressive and may grow much faster. Many breast cancers may have been growing for many years before a lump is felt. Earlier detection has been successful with screening mammograms.
Breast cancers may be defined as invasive (232,000 cases estimated for 2014) or non-invasive (63,000 cases estimated for 2014) breast cancer (referred to as ductal or lobular carcinoma in situ). These differences affect treatment and prognosis.
Invasive breast cancer occurs when abnormal breast cells invade beyond the duct or lobules and gain access into the lymphatic or blood vessels. When this happens cancer cells can travel from the site they originated to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymph nodes. The cancer can be confined locally, found only in the breast. The tumor can become locally advanced if it spread to the axillary lymph nodes located in the underarm area (usually are the first place breast cancer is likely to spread). In advanced stages, breast cancer cells may spread distantly or metastasize to other parts of the body like the liver, lungs, bones and brain.
Radiation therapy is an important part in the treatment of breast cancer. The extent or stage of breast cancer helps determine the radiation treatment plan. Highly targeted radiation technologies are used to deliver maximum radiation doses to tumors, with least impact on normal tissues and organs. Advanced imaging techniques before and during radiation treatment to monitor and deliver the radiation treatments.
Depending on each individual needs, radiation therapy may be given alone or in combination with other treatment modalities like chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or immunotherapy. Throughout your treatment, we monitor the effectiveness of the radiation therapy and modify, as needed your treatment plan accordingly.
Our radiation oncologists have expertise in the area of tumor genomic profiling for breast cancer and clinical decision impact with regard to radiation therapy. If indicated access to national trials with investigational therapies and techniques is available. Each of our physicians is a member of one of the largest oncology research programs in the country.