Breast Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Breast Cancer

Should I start chemotherapy before surgery for breast cancer?

The classical concept of breast-cancer treatment has been a sequence of tumor-removing surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The goal of surgery and radiation therapy is to destroy or remove the primary cancer. Follow-up chemotherapy is designed to eliminate any cancer cells, as yet undetectable, at remote sites.

Recently, there have been new findings suggesting a potential benefit in some patients when chemotherapy is started before surgery. However, initial chemotherapy (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) should be considered primarily in patients with larger tumors and those with strong evidence of lymph-node involvement at the time of initial diagnosis.

If you are enrolled in a clinical trial, the advantages and disadvantages of all protocols should have been explained to you, giving you the opportunity to make an informed decision.

If I am advised to have a mastectomy, what are the risks and benefits of immediate breast reconstruction?

If a mastectomy is necessary, immediate reconstruction offers a great psychological benefit to most women. However, as is often the case in medicine, there are trade-off risks that must be considered. If the reconstruction is done during the same surgery as the mastectomy (immediate reconstruction), the final results of the pathology tests on the removed tumor and tissue is not yet known and will not be known for at least a day or two.

There are sometimes findings on the final pathology report that make chest-wall radiation advisable in order to reduce the risk of local recurrence. If a prosthesis for the breast has been implanted, the radiation treatment will still work, but the radiation may significantly compromise the cosmetic appearance of the prosthesis. There may also be healing problems that delay chemotherapy, potentially increasing the risk of breast-cancer recurrence. These and other factors should be discussed and carefully considered before committing to immediate breast reconstruction.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/25/2016
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