We've helped thousands of women with breast cancer. We want to help you, too.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. The good news is, many breast cancers can be cured. At Great Lakes Cancer Care, we offer advanced treatments that maximize positive outcomes and minimize side effects. Combining the expertise of doctors, surgeons and specialists from seven of the region's top medical providers—including local obstetricians, gynecologists, surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists—our breast cancer oncology team works together to develop the treatment plan that's best for you.
Knowing the symptoms is the key to finding breast cancer early. Common symptoms include:
- A new lump in your breast or underarm
- Nipple discharge
- Pain in the nipple area
- Changes in the appearance of the nipple
- Changes in the skin of the breast, including thickening, swelling, irritation or dimpling
- An abnormal mammogram
A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing breast cancer. While some factors cannot be controlled, like your age and family history, there are many that can. Some risk factors you can modify to reduce your risk of breast cancer include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Tobacco use
- Exposure to sunlight
- Exposure to radiation
- Hormone use
Often, breast cancer is first detected by a mammogram, a physician breast exam or a self breast exam. If breast cancer is suspected, your physician will likely send you for further testing to reach a definitive diagnosis. These tests may include the following:
- Breast biopsy
Depending on the type and stage of your breast cancer, you may have several treatment options. Our collaborative team will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan for your unique situation. We offer the following treatment options throughout Western New York:
To determine which type of breast cancer operation makes most sense for your situation, you will work together with your doctor and your care team. There are two main types of breast cancer surgery:
- Mastectomy: A surgeon will remove your breast tissue down to the chest wall, including the nipple and area around the nipple.
- Lumpectomy: A surgeon will only remove the abnormal area of tissue from your breast, along with some of the normal tissue that surrounds it.
Radiation Therapy Treatment
We are proud to offer the latest radiation treatment techniques. Our goal is to deliver a high dose of radiation to the specific area, without harming the surrounding healthy tissues. With state-of-the-art technology, we can maximize the destruction of cancer cells and your potential for a cure, while minimizing your risk of side effects and chance of a recurrence.
Our first step is developing a customized radiation treatment plan just for you. Most patients are treated via one of the following painless options:
Whole Breast Radiation:
This type of external beam radiation is used for patients who have had a lumpectomy; a similar technique is used for patients who require radiation after a mastectomy, to treat the chest wall and nearby lymph nodes.
How it works
A machine sends radiation beams into your body to treat the entire breast, and (in some cases) the nearby lymph node chains. Whole breast radiation is safe, with limited side effects, which means you can usually keep up your daily activities.
You will come in for approximately 10 minutes each day, Monday through Friday, for a total of five to seven weeks.
Partial Breast Radiation with High Dose Rate Brachytherapy (HDR):
This may be an option if you plan to have a lumpectomy. The benefit to partial breast radiation is that it may reduce your risk of side effects. It also has a shorter treatment time.
How it works
Your surgeon will insert a small device in your breast with a small tube that will extend from the side of your breast. This device is easily removed in our office once your treatment sessions are complete.
During each treatment session, the tube extending from your breast will be attached to a special high-dose-rate radiation (HDR) machine. This machine will put a radioactive “seed” into the device inside your breast for 10 or 15 minutes, then return it to the machine.
Partial breast radiation treatments are delivered twice a day, for five days. Typically, there is a 4-6 hour break between each treatment. During these breaks, you are free to leave the office and go about your normal daily activities.
Treatment side effects may include a temporary skin reaction, fatigue, a small risk of infection and a slight change in the size and shape of the breast (due to scar tissue formation).
Chemotherapy treatment consists of cancer-killing drugs that may be given intravenously (injected into a vein) or by mouth. There are several situations when chemotherapy may be recommended as part of your breast cancer treatment, including adjuvant chemotherapy (given to patients after surgery) and neoadjuvant chemotherapy (designed to shrink large cancers before surgery).
Chemotherapy is given in cycles, with each period of treatment followed by a recovery period. Overall, chemotherapy usually lasts a few months.
Possible side effects of chemotherapy include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increase of infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
These side effects are usually short-term, and subside after treatment is finished.
Survivor Care and Services
Breast cancer requires a team approach to help ensure long-term health. At Great Lakes Cancer Care, we partner with leading providers throughout the region to make sure you and your family receive the information, treatment and follow-up services to keep you in the best health possible.
- Mammograms: If you have had treatment for breast cancer, it is important to continue having mammograms of the affected breast, as well as the opposite breast.
- Ultrasounds: Usually used to target a specific area of concern found on the mammogram, this painless procedure helps distinguish between cysts (fluid-filled sacs) and solid masses, and between benign and cancerous tumors.
- Breast biopsies: There are two main types of biopsies used to diagnose breast cancer: core needle biopsies and surgical biopsies.
- Sentinel lymph node biopsies: An injection of a blue dye or a radioactive solution near the tumor or near the nipple to help show which lymph nodes the cancer is most likely to spread to.
- Genetic testing and counseling: If you have a significant family history of breast cancer, you may want to learn about your cancer risk and decide if genetic testing is right for you.
- Massage: A massage can help reduce anxiety. It can also relieve some of the pain and discomfort you may be feeling as a result of your symptoms or treatment.
- Physical therapy: For many women, physical therapy can help you restore and maintain strength and range of motion in your muscles, particularly your shoulders. Therapy can also be designed to prevent lymphedema (swelling of the arm).
- Lymphedema treatment: This treatment can help reduce the swelling of the arm on the same side of the body as the affected breast. It can also help keep the swelling from getting worse, and decrease the risk of infection.
At Great Lakes Cancer Care we think it's important that you understand your cancer, as well as how we treat it. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to ask the best questions—and for us to give you the best answers. View our library of learning materials below to get started.
Breastcancer.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information and community to those touched by this disease.
Komen for the Cure
Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. The website provides information, education and support to those touched by breast cancer.