Breast Cancer Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment
A breast cancer diagnosis is the start of a long journey that requires a lot of important decisions. Who will be in charge of your breast cancer care? What is the best breast cancer hospital? How will you know which breast cancer treatment is best for you? At Duke, our breast oncologists are nationally recognized for their research and expertise in detecting, evaluating and treating all types of breast cancer. We help you understand your breast cancer treatment options and make important decisions about your breast cancer care.
Your Breast Cancer Doctors
When breast cancer is suspected, your primary care doctor will refer you to a breast cancer specialist. Whether that doctor is a medical oncologist or surgical oncologist, he or she will guide you in diagnosing and staging your breast cancer. This breast cancer specialist should also help you pull together the medical team that will coordinate your care. A breast cancer team may include:
- Surgical oncologist. Most breast cancer treatment starts with some type of surgical procedure. Your breast cancer surgeon will evaluate the type and stage of your breast cancer, and recommend the procedure that is right for you.
- Medical oncologist. Chemotherapy, immunotherapies, and targeted treatments are overseen by a medical oncologist if they are part of your breast cancer care.
- Radiation oncologist. Targeted and shortened courses of radiation therapy may be used to shrink tumors before or after surgery. Duke radiation oncologists also teach techniques like breath holding and prone breast positioning to minimize radiation exposure to your normal healthy tissues, including your heart.
- Plastic surgeon. If you desire and are eligible for breast reconstruction, a plastic surgeon and help you understand your options and recommend the procedure that may be best for you.
Your breast cancer care is our top priority. Because our doctors work as a team at every Duke cancer center, you will see many members of your breast cancer team during your appointment. That goes a long way toward reducing unnecessary stress and anxiety. It also ensures you have all the information you need to make decisions about your care. In addition, if you seek care at Duke and continue your radiation or chemotherapy closer to home, our doctors will coordinate your treatment plan with your doctors. We also provide second opinions and share information with doctors near you.
You benefit from our advanced training and skills. Our breast oncologists have years of experience working only with breast cancer patients. In addition, our knowledge of the latest advances in breast cancer therapies, and access to breast cancer clinical trials ensures you get the best care possible for your needs.
Our breast cancer doctors are nationally recognized. Our doctors are included in Time magazine's annual lists of the most influential people because of their contributions to new breast cancer treatment approaches including two of the most recently FDA-approved drugs for breast cancer. Ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) has been referred to as a "smart bomb" because it targets the tumor, lacks significant side effects, and offers patients a better quality of life. Lapatinib (Tykerb), also developed by Duke doctors and researchers, treats HER2-positive breast cancer by targeting and blocking the signals that breast tumors need to grow. It’s an added option for women whose breast cancer has stopped responding to other treatments.
What to Look for in a Breast Cancer Center
Larger hospitals have more breast cancer specialists who have more experience treating different types of breast cancer, including rare forms of breast cancer. Breast cancer centers that are part of larger hospitals can also offer more services to women and men with breast cancer.
- Our cancer program is nationally recognized. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we offer a level of cancer expertise found only in the top cancer centers across the country. The skills and experience of our breast cancer doctors, surgeons, counselors, and therapists come from working with breast cancer every day. Our cancer program is among those nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
- Our breast specialists can help you determine your risk of breast cancer. Assessing your risk for breast cancer and preventing it from occurring requires a personalized approach.
- Your convenience and comfort are important. Choosing a breast cancer center near to your home minimizes the impact your breast cancer treatment has on your daily activities and your quality of life. Duke cancer centers are located throughout Cary, Raleigh, Durham and beyond. Imaging, testing, and breast cancer treatments are available at our centers.
- You may be eligible to participate in breast cancer clinical trials. These studies give eligible breast cancer patients access to new therapies before they are approved. Duke doctors are investigating new ways to approach breast tumors, how exercise impacts treatment and survival, and how to improve the quality of our patients’ lives. You may be eligible to participate in our breast cancer clinical trials, which are using new vaccines to treat different types of breast cancer, including early stage breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer.
- Your special needs are met in highly specialized clinics. We offer clinics devoted to specific types of breast cancer, different age groups, and unique healthcare needs, including sexual health and fertility issues for women in their childbearing years.
- You and your family learn to cope with help from our comprehensive support services. Our cancer support services help minimize the side effects of treatment, and help you cope with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment. Our breast cancer survivorship clinic offers resources to help survivors after treatment ends. View all of our breast cancer support groups in our event calendar.
- Mammography is available at six convenient locations in Durham and Wake counties. Same-day appointments are available, and you’ll get same-day results during our Saturday clinics. Diagnostic mammography, breast ultrasound, and breast MRI are forms of breast imaging that can identify masses and cancers, and potentially assist with staging. Stereotactic, MRI-guided, and ultrasound-guided biopsies are used to extract small pieces of tissue where cancer is suspected. A pathologist uses these tests to evaluate the type and stage of your breast cancer, which is then used to help determine the right breast cancer treatment option for you.
- If you are at risk for inherited breast cancer, our genetic counselors may recommend screening for BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes — the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer — and will help you interpret your results. With these facts, they can discuss the options that will keep you and your family healthy.