Breast Cancer Treatment

Because every breast cancer patient is unique, the four standard treatments used in breast cancer care are often combined to best suit the individual’s needs.

Closeup of woman standing in front of mammogram machine

This treatment plan depends on the stage of the cancer (the size and whether or not the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other locations in the body), the type and makeup of the cancerous tumor, the age and general health of patient and if it is a first-time diagnosis or recurring cancer.

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Surgery can be used to diagnose, treat, or even help prevent cancer. Most people with cancer will have some type of surgery. It often offers the greatest chance for cure, especially if the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.

Surgery is the oldest form of cancer treatment. It also plays a key role in the process of diagnosing cancer and finding out how far it has spread (staging). Advances in surgical techniques have allowed surgeons to operate on a growing number of patients with good outcomes. When a surgeon has to cut into the body to operate, it is called invasive surgery. Today, operations that involve less cutting and damage to nearby organs and tissues (minimally invasive surgery) often can be done to remove tumors while saving as much normal tissue and function as possible.

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The Day of Your Breast Surgery

Types of Surgery


This option of breast surgery involves the removal of a breast tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. Lumpectomy is a form of “breast-conserving” or "breast preservation" surgery and may be an option if advised by your doctor and care professionals. A lumpectomy is a partial mastectomy, because only part of the breast tissue is removed.


The surgical removal of one or both breasts is an option many woman and even some men choose when battling breast cancer. Though often a difficult decision, our team will be there to offer information, compassion, and support of your decision for treatment. There are several mastectomy types detailed below:

  • Simple Mastectomy/Total Mastectomy - This procedure involves the removal of the entire breast tissue sparing axillary contents, fatty tissue and lymph nodes. The sentinel lymph node is sometimes also removed because it is the first lymph node where the metastasizing cancer cells would be expected to drain.
  • Modified Radical Mastectomy - This entails the removal of the entire breast tissue along with the axillary contents. The pectoral muscles are left undisturbed.
  • Radical Mastectomy/Halsted Mastectomy - Removal of the entire breast, the axillary lymph nodes, and the pectoral muscles behind the breast.
  • Skin-Sparing Mastectomy - Surgery involving the removal of breast tissue through a small incision made around the areola. Patients with cancers that involve the skin are not candidates for this procedure.
  • Nipple-sparing/Subcutaneous Mastectomy - The nipple-areola complex is preserved while breast tissue is removed.

High Dose Radiation (HDR)

There are two ways that breasts can be treated using HDR. Radiation oncologists recommend which procedure is best for a patient.

  • Interstitial Implant - HDR is delivered through interstitial catheters inserted in the breast while the patient is under anesthesia or sedated. The catheters are attached at the time of treatment to the radiation source. These catheters stay in the breast during the week that treatment is given and are removed after the last treatment. The implant can be done at the time the lumpectomy is healed.
  • SAVI®: The 5-Day Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer - HSHS St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Centers offers partial breast radiation with SAVI. SAVI addresses two key issues in breast cancer radiation treatment: 1) exposure to healthy tissue and 2) length of treatment. SAVI’s multiple catheters and open-architecture design allow for the precise delivery of radiation. This enables physicians to optimally spare normal tissues, which can improve outcomes and increase the number of women who may be eligible for breast conservation therapy (BCT).For women who face hurdles completing an extended treatment schedule, SAVI reduces radiation treatment time from several weeks to just 5 days. Many women consider this accelerated schedule to be a significant benefit.

This partial-breast radiation treatment that allows breast cancer patients requiring radiation therapy after a lumpectomy to be treated in five days, rather than six to seven weeks for whole-breast irradiation which uses a radiation source outside the body to treat the cancer site.