Breast Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment Options

Diagnostic Services

Lifespan medical imaging facilities meet the FDA’s Mammography Quality Standards and are certified by the American College of Radiology. Techniques available include:

  • Digital mammography
  • Digital breast tomosynthesis (3-D mammography)
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Breast MRI
  • Breast needle biopsy
  • Cyst or fine needle aspiration

We also offer second opinion and consultation services to review any current breast imaging studies performed at another facility. Learn more about the Anne C. Pappas Center for Breast Imaging and Lifespan Medical Imaging.

Treating Breast Cancer

There are more treatment options for breast cancer than ever before and making decisions about your treatment can be overwhelming. At the Lifespan Cancer Institute, we understand how difficult this process can be. Our care team works with you every step of the way to formulate a treatment plan that's best suited to your breast cancer and your preferences.

Our team meets with each patient to discuss the patient’s preferences and recommend a treatment plan that may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or surgery. Each patient is also evaluated for genetic aspects of the disease and is referred to a genetics clinic if necessary. Patients are offered access to promising new treatments as participants in clinical trials.

We also provide:

  • Breast health navigators who are registered nurses trained in oncology working in conjunction with treating physicians to guide patients through diagnosis, treatment and recovery
  • Rehabilitation therapy
  • A lymphedema management program
  • Adjunct therapies including reiki, massage, pet visits, and art or music projects

Throughout treatment, the team keeps the patient’s primary care physician informed about the patient’s treatment plan and progress. When treatment is completed, we will send a comprehensive summary of the patient’s treatment history and a plan for follow-up care.

Breast Cancer Surgery

The Lifespan Cancer Institute offers a comprehensive range of procedures for the surgical treatment of breast cancer. Your care team will discuss your options and will recommend the surgical procedure that is most appropriate for you.

Breast conserving surgery aims to keep as much of the breast tissue intact as possible, typically removing a lump or part of the breast, which is the preferred option for women with early stage breast cancer. For those with advanced breast cancer or those who have a high risk of recurrence, a mastectomy to remove the whole breast may be the best course.

During surgery, many women also have either a sentinel node biopsy or axillary node dissection, in which a surgeon removes lymph nodes from the underarm to determine if breast cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes. This procedure is very helpful in planning the treatment to follow surgery.

Surgery is often combined with additional treatments, most often radiation therapy, to destroy any remaining cancer cells and reduce the chances that breast cancer might recur.

Reconstructive Surgery

The Lifespan Cancer Institute offers reconstructive breast surgery for women who have had a mastectomy and do not wish to wear a breast prosthesis. This surgery usually can be performed at the time of breast surgery; however, it can also be performed weeks and even years later, with the same cosmetic result.

During breast reconstruction, a plastic surgeon uses your own breast tissue or an implant to reconstruct the breast, restoring its natural shape. A skin-sparing mastectomy spares the nipple and areola so that they can be included in the reconstruction.

Reconstruction does not impact the chance of the cancer recurring, and would not have any effect on treatment if cancer does recur. Rarely does an implant impede the ability to spot the return of breast cancer.

Few women are not good candidates for breast reconstruction. The choice is individual to every woman, and should be based on your personal needs, lifestyle, medical limitations, etc. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of breast reconstruction with your doctor.

Post-Surgery Care

After your surgery, it's normal to become easily tired for the first few days. Make sure to get plenty of rest. It's also normal to have pain, swelling and redness at the site of your surgery. If it becomes worse, let your doctor know as soon as possible.

Arm Care

Women who have had lymph nodes removed from under the arm, or who have had an axillary lymph node dissection, may experience arm swelling on the side of the surgery. This condition is known as lymphedema.

Ways you can reduce your risk of lymphedema:

  • Have your blood drawn, blood pressure taken and any shots given in the unaffected arm.
  • Promptly wash, treat and dress the affected arm if cut, bitten or burned.
  • Wear loose-fitting rubber gloves when working with household cleaning products or when you have your hands in water for a period of time.
  • Use caution when shaving your underarm area, and consider using an electric razor.
  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, especially on your arm and chest.


Exercise has physical and emotional benefits. Discuss with your doctor when to start and what type of exercise is right for you. With your doctor's approval, try to get back into your normal routine and activities.


If you're experiencing discomfort, try elevating your arm with a small pillow. This will alleviate pressure and may help you rest better.

Targeted Drug Therapy

Breast cancer can be treated with targeted drug therapy in certain cases. This treatment uses medicines to attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

What is it?

Cancer cells have abnormalities and areas of weakness, just as any cell does. Targeted therapy uses these weak areas to destroy cancer cells, block their growth, or prevent them from spreading. Some targeted therapies use antibodies created in a laboratory instead of medicine to target cancer cells in the same way as antibodies made by our immune system.

When is it used?

Targeted drug therapy is most often used for metastatic breast cancer, usually in combination with chemotherapy. Targeted drug therapy is used in three main ways:

To work against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the cancer cells' ability to receive signals telling them to grow. This type of therapy also prompts the body to attack the cancer cells on its own and works with chemotherapy to prevent cancer cells from repairing themselves.

To work against HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the proteins on cancer cells that cause uncontrolled cell growth.

To work against all breast cancers by blocking the growth of new blood vessels in the tumor, which cancer cells depend on to grow and function. Cancer cells will die without new blood vessels and the oxygen and nutrients they bring to the tumor.

How is it performed?

Targeted drug therapy is administered by infusion, and many times can be combined with chemotherapy for one infusion session. In rare cases, this type of treatment can be given in pill form.

Are there side effects?

Targeted drug therapy can cause side effects, but specific symptoms and their severity depend on the exact medicines used.

Common side effects include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling
  • Nausea
  • Fever/chills
  • Dizziness/weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Kidney problems

What to do if you experience side effects

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have:

  • A temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • New mouth or throat abnormalities, such as sores or feeling swollen
  • A new cough that produces mucus
  • Changes in bladder function, such as increased frequency
  • Changes in gastrointestinal function that last more than three days

Noninvasive Image-Guided Brachytherapy for Breast Cancer

Noninvasive image-guided breast brachytherapy is a new approach to accelerated partial breast irradiation, a technique that reduces the impact of radiation treatment on the patient by focusing on only the surgical site, not the whole breast. Led by Dr. Jaroslaw Hepel, this developing technique would utilize radiation therapy before surgery and would target the tumor itself, rather than the surgical cavity.

The benefits of this approach include a reduced treatment area, more precise treatment, and less breast tissue exposed to radiation. To learn more, please call 1-844-222-2881.

Support and Rehabilitation

We are dedicated to helping people live their lives to the fullest, both during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. We have developed a wide array of services for our cancer patients.