Identifying the right treatment options
UF Health Jacksonville takes a multimodal therapy approach to treating cancer. The radiologist and pathologist help diagnose, and the surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists help with the treatment itself.
Treatment options include chemotherapy, hormonal blockade therapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Most patients will receive a combination of these options for their personalized treatment plan.
Deciding on the best treatment option is also dependent on whether the cancer is local, regional or systemic. Local or regional treatment targets the tumor in the breast and what may have spread to the lymph nodes. Local and regional disease is usually treated with surgery, and depending on the type of surgery, sometimes radiation and/or breast reconstruction.
Systemic treatment is used to treat any cancer cells that may have escaped the breast and are circulating through the body. Types of systemic treatment include chemotherapy, hormonal blockade or biological therapy.
The entire team of specialists at UF Health Jacksonville look closely at the all of this information, including the patient’s personal health, to form a personalized treatment plan.
Making the decision to get a mastectomy
Patients usually have a choice between a lumpectomy (removing the cancer and a rim of normal tissue) and a mastectomy (removal of the breast). This decision is normally a personal choice.
According to Neumayer, randomized clinical trials have shown that survival is dependent on the biology of the cancer and systemic treatment, not solely on what operation is performed on the breast. Many patients choose a lumpectomy, which is usually followed by radiation treatments.
For patients who do choose to get a mastectomy, Neumayer recommends consulting with a plastic surgeon so they can explore options for reconstructive surgery.
What are the chances of the cancer returning?
Long term, 20-25% of patients may see their breast cancer return, with the majority of these being ones who had stage 2 or 3 cancers. For those with stage 1 cancer, the chance is less than 5% at 20 years.
As patients navigate their diagnosis and decide on a treatment team and plan, they should remember that it is always reasonable to get second opinions on treatment options and the decision to have surgery. Patients should feel comfortable with the team they have as they start on the road to recovery.
“At UF Jacksonville, we have a full team of high-level specialists who work together daily to create an individualized treatment plan for our patients,” Neumayer said. “Health care can be confusing to navigate, and we are here to help patients feel safe on this journey.”
For more information on this topic, check out “Meet Virginia: Biography of a Breast,” a book authored by Neumayer that details a patient’s journey through her breast cancer surgery.