Breast cancer is most common cancer in Australian women and occurs when the cells lining the breast ducts or lobules grow abnormally.
There are two broad groups of breast cancers:
- Pre-invasive: where the cancer cells are still confined to the ducts or lobules of the breast.
- Invasive: this means the cancer has spread outside the ducts or lobules and into the surrounding tissue.
Some signs and symptoms to be aware of are:
- A lump, lumpiness or thickening of the breast tissue
- Changes to the nipple, such as a change in shape, crusting, a sore or ulcer, redness, or unusual discharge
- Changes to the skin of the breast, such as dimpling, unusual redness or other colour changes
- A change to the shape of the breast, including increase or decrease in size
- Swelling or discomfort in the armpit
- Persistent pain that is not related to your normal menstrual cycle
Radiation Therapy for breast cancer
Radiation Therapy has a vital role in the management of breast cancer.
It is used:
- In conjunction with surgery (either lumpectomy - removal of the tumour itself - or mastectomy - removal of the breast, including the tumour)
- Instead of surgery,
- In advanced cases of cancer for symptom control (palliation)
In each of these scenarios the treatment program is individualised for the patient based on the pathology and disease staging test results. Sometimes only the breast (or chest) requires radiation and sometimes both the breast and any affected lymph nodes are treated.
Routinely radiotherapy treatment is delivered using External Beam Radiotherapy, but brachytherapy is also a viable treatment option for certain patients. This involves implanting catheters into the cancer site to give a high-dose of radiation to a very localised area. This is called Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI). The Mater centre offers this advanced technique through its Integrated Brachytherapy Unit program. However, this is a selective radiotherapy technique so your Radiation Oncologist will be able to advise on your suitability for this treatment option.
Deep Inspiration Breath Hold
Genesis CancerCare NSW is also pleased to offer patients with breast cancer the Deep Inspiration Breath Hold technique. Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) is used primarily to treat patients with breast cancer to the left side. For women with left sided breast cancer, a major concern is the risk of radiation delivered to the heart (which also sits to the left side of the body). DIBH is the most efficient way to minimise this risk.
All of our Genesis CancerCare centres are actively involved in breast cancer research and hold joint multidisciplinary clinics where patient cases are discussed by surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, so that optimal overall care and treatment planning can be achieved. These groups of specialist treatment physicians are also supported by pathologists and radiologists who provide important diagnostic reports and investigations.