Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast cancer is treated in many different ways. Surgery, Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy, Tablet therapy are all used in modern practice. Some patients may be recommended a single treatment, whereas others may be recommended a combination of treatments. At the Arden Breast Clinic, our team includes Surgeons, Oncologists, Histopathologists, Radiologists and Nurses, and we will discuss your case at depth to ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment regime, whilst taking your wishes into consideration. All treatment regimes will be discussed with you comprehensively to ensure you are on board with our recommendations. We understand it can be daunting and unsettling talking about potential risks and side effects, but we will give you as much time as you need to consider your options.


Breast Surgery

Breast cancer surgery can be broadly categorised into Lumpectomy (preserving the breast) or Mastectomy (removing the whole breast). The surgery that is recommended to you will be determined by multiple factors, including the size of the tumour and the size of your breast. Your opinions will also play an important role in the decision-making process. If a mastectomy is recommended, then breast reconstruction will also be discussed with you.

Your surgeon may recommend a "therapeutic mammoplasty". This procedure involves utilising a breast reduction technique, traditionally used for cosmetic procedures, to treat a breast cancer. You may also require a breast reduction on the other breast to achieve symmetry; this may be offered at the same time, or at a later date, depending on the individual circumstances.

A "simple mastectomy" involves removing the breast an overlying skin with the nipple. The result is a flat chest on the side of the breast cancer with a scar extending from the breast bone to the underarm.

A "skin-sparring mastectomy" involves removing the breast through a cosmetically desirable incision, whilst preserving the skin envelope of the breast. This is often combined with an immediate breast reconstruction.

Axillary Surgery

You may require surgery to the lymph nodes of your underarm on the same side as the breast cancer. A "sentinel lymph node biopsy" involves removing the first draining lymph nodes in the underarm. It is routine practice to offer this procedure to any patient where the breast cancer has not obviously spread to the lymph nodes on their scans. If there is evidence of spread to the underarm lymph nodes, you may be offered an "axillary node clearance", which involves removing most of the lymph nodes of the underarm.


Chemotherapy involves giving drugs which can treat cancer cells around the whole body. They are usually injected through the veins, but are sometimes given orally.

We may recommend chemotherapy for some patients, based on a number of different factors, including the biology of the cancer or whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Where possible, we may recommend giving chemotherapy first in order to shrink the cancer in the breast. This may allow us to avoid a mastectomy if the cancer was large initially, and shrinks down after the chemotherapy. If you are recommended chemotherapy, this treatment may take around 6 months to complete.

Unless you are having chemotherapy as tablets, you will normally be given your treatment at hospital as an outpatient or day case, which means you will be able to go home on the same day. With some types of chemotherapy you may be given your first treatment as an inpatient and will need to stay in hospital overnight.

You may be at the hospital for a short time only. However, because of tests, waiting times and how long it takes to prepare and give the chemotherapy drugs, some people are there for most of the day.


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Radiotherapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. It’s given to destroy any cancer cells that may have been left in the breast and surrounding area after surgery. It is usually given after breast conserving surgery, and in selected cases after mastectomy. The main purpose of radiotherapy is to reduce the risk of the breast cancer coming back.

Radiotherapy may not be suitable if you have previously had radiotherapy to the same area, if you have a medical condition that could make you particularly sensitive to its effects or if you are pregnant.

Radiotherapy can be given in several ways and using different doses, depending on your treatment plan. The total dose is split into a course of smaller treatments (called fractions), usually given daily over a few weeks.

External beam radiotherapy

This is the most common type of radiotherapy used to treat primary breast cancer. X-rays are delivered by a machine which directs a beam of radiation at the breast. The x-rays do not make you radioactive, so when you leave the treatment room you can safely mix with other people, including children.

Intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT)

IMRT is another way of giving external beam radiotherapy. The dose (intensity) of radiotherapy can be varied (modulated), allowing different amounts of radiation to be given to different areas. The risk of side effects is lower with IMRT because healthy tissue in the area gets a lower dose of radiation.

Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT)

This is a type of IMRT. The radiotherapy machine rotates round the area being treated, continuously changing the shape and intensity of the radiation beam.


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