Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women. Breast cancer occurs when the cells lining the breast ducts or lobules grow abnormally.
There are two common broad groups of breast cancers:
- Pre-invasive: where the cancer cells are still confined to the ducts or lobules of the breast.
- Invasive: where the cancer has spread outside the ducts or lobules of the breast into the surrounding tissue.
Breast screening is important for early diagnosis.
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, 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
Breast cancer treatment often involves a multidisciplinary team, with:
- Hormone therapy
- Radiation therapy
There are different approaches available for all four treatment modalities in terms of technique, treatment regimens and prescriptions. Your team of specialists will discuss and recommend what is best suited for your diagnosis.
As an example, for early stage, higher risk breast cancer, breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) plus or minus a course of chemotherapy and then external beam radiation therapy is a common treatment approach.
External Beam Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer
External beam radiation therapy has an important 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)
- Occasionally 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 surgery undertaken, the pathology and disease staging test results. Sometimes only the breast (or chestwall) requires radiation and sometimes both the breast (or chestwall) and some lymph nodes are treated.
Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) Radiation Therapy for left-sided breast cancer
DIBH is a technique used for patients with left sided breast cancer undergoing radiation treatment. As the heart lies on the left side of the chest there is a possibility it will receive some radiation dose. This dose depends on a number of factors including shape of the lungs, position of the heart and the location of the primary tumour. Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) is one way to minimise the radiation dose to the heart. To learn more please click here.
All of our Genesis CancerCare Queensland 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 diagnosis reports and investigations.
Our treatment centres, in addition to providing the highest quality treatment services offer supportive care via breast nurses and professional counselling. Quick Links
External beam radiation therapy services for breast cancer are available at all Genesis CancerCare Queensland centres.