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Breast Cancer Treatment Options

The section provides an overview on the variety of treatment options available to women with breast cancer. Most women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer will undergo some type of treatment for the disease. A woman’s most favorable course of treatment will depend on a number of factors including the size and location of the breast tumor, the stage of the cancer, and results of laboratory tests (such as hormone receptor tests). Before undergoing treatment, women are encouraged to learn about the different treatment options available and to discuss all possible alternatives with their physician or cancer treatment team. It is always a wise decision to obtain a second opinion before beginning breast cancer treatment.

Breast cancer treatment depends on a variety of factors including:

  • the size of the breast tumor
  • location of the tumor
  • the stage of the cancer
  • results of laboratory tests (such as hormone receptor or gene analysis).

The majority of women with breast cancer will undergo surgery as part of their cancer treatment. The standard types of breast surgery include: lumpectomy and mastectomy.  In addition to surgery, some women will receive adjuvant (additional) treatment to stop cancer growth, spread, or recurrence. Types of adjuvant therapies include: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and drug treatments. Occasionally women may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or drugs without having breast surgery.

The remainder of this article provides brief descriptions of various breast cancer treatments available to women. To learn more about a topic, simply click on the underlined words within the different sections.


Lumpectomy refers to the surgical removal of a cancerous lump (or tumor) in the breast along with a small margin of the surrounding normal breast tissue. This type of surgery is attractive to many women because it allows them to maintain most of their breast after surgery. Lumpectomy is often performed on Stage 0, Stage I, or Stage II breast cancers with or without lymph node removal.  Occasionally, patients with Stage III breast cancer may undergo lumpectomy if the tumor can be cut free with one incision. When lumpectomy is combined with at least six weeks of radiation therapy, it is called breast-conserving therapy.


Mastectomy is the surgical removal of the affected breast. Types of mastectomy include simple, modified radical, and radical. Mastectomy may or may not include the removal of some or all of the underarm lymph nodes.  Although mastectomy involves the physical alteration of the breast, immediate or delayed breast reconstruction is possible in most cases. Mastectomy is common treatment for women with Stage 0, Stage I, Stage II, or Stage III breast cancers.  Surgeons may occasionally perform radical mastectomy on Stage IV patients to provide symptom relief.

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