Our patients are an inspiration to us and to women everywhere. Read their stories here
Mary Beth - Age 51
She didn't want to have a lumpectomy and radiation because if the cancer returned then that translated to more surgeries and also more breast tissue being removed. Learn about her story
Every breast cancer patient has a unique journey, and at Dr. Cassileth's office, we are here to help you in any way we can during this difficult time. Hopefully the information below can help you understand the steps in the process of treating your breast cancer and restoring you to health.
Four steps of the Breast Cancer Journey
Suspicion of breast cancer is raised by:
You will visit with a general surgeon who specializes in breast cancer. The surgeon will first want to know if the lump is truly malignant or not, and if it is, how big it is and if any lymph nodes are involved.
In order to get a true diagnosis, a sample of breast tissue is obtained. There are different ways to do this. For example, if the area that is suspicious can be easily felt, the surgeon may perform a needle biopsy. If the area can only be seen on mammography imaging, you may choose to undergo a biopsy guided by mammogram.
If the biopsy does turn out to be cancer, then the surgeon will want to know if it has spread to the lymph nodes. Detection of abnormalities of the lymph nodes is performed by radiological studies, such as an MRI.
Based on the results of the biopsy, your surgeon may advise you to undergo lumpectomy or mastecomy. Your surgeon will discuss these options with you and help you to make an informed decision about how to proceed.
In the event that you must undergo mastectomy or a large lumpectomy, you will visit with a plastic surgeon to discuss your options for reconstruction. Depending on where your cancer is located, you may be a good candidate for Dr. Cassileth's One-Stage Breast Reconstruction.
Mastectomy (surgical removal of the breasts) is recommended for:
For the latter group, this includes patients who have BRCA* (gene) mutations, and who have LCIS on pathology (lobular carcinoma in situ). Patients with extensive ductal atypia may also want to consider mastectomy.
*BRCA Definition: The BRCA gene test is a blood test that uses DNA analysis to identify harmful changes (mutations) in either one of the two breast cancer susceptibility genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited (from a family member) mutations in these genes face a much higher risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer compared with the general population. Often women that test positive for the BRCA gene opt to have bilateral mastectomies and breast reconstruction to prevent possible future breast cancer.
No decision is made on the basis of pathology alone, however. Every patient has different feelings about the loss of a breast and the risk of future cancer.
After the mastectomy, breast reconstruction is performed to restore your breasts. Dr. Cassileth's standard of care is Cassileth One-Stage Breast Reconstruction. Your breasts will be reconstructed during the same surgery as your mastectomy surgery by placing silicone implants, so when you wake up from surgery, you will have your new breasts.
If your nipple/areola were removed (this is determined by the location of your cancer) you may later have a second surgery to reconstruct your nipple/areola. Often fat grafting to the breasts is performed at this time to enhance your overall aesthetic result.
Helping women that are touched by cancer become mothers: