Breast Cancer Treatments and Services

Over the past two decades, we have seen major improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. With increased early detection and surgery options that conserve much of the breast, some of the trauma associated with breast cancer has been reduced, and chances for long-term survival have increased. Emory's Breast Team, who works in conjunction with the breast cancer team at the Winship Cancer Institute is committed to finding the best and most effective treatment for our patients.

The goal of treating breast cancer is to eliminate the cancer from the body and prevent it from returning. We typically approach this with a combination of treatments including surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy/hormone therapy. Breast cancer treatment is a multidisciplinary effort that involves cancer experts, and specifically, breast cancer specialists from the Winship Cancer Institute. Each breast cancer patient's treatment regimen is unique and depends on many factors. We offer the following breast cancer treatments. Emory's Breast Team will work with you to design a treatment plan that addresses your individual needs and preferences.

Oncology Services

Oncology services offered to patients of the Emory Breast Health Center through collaboration with the Winship Cancer Institute include:

Supportive Care

Palliative care is a medical specialty that focuses on the many ways serious illness affects patients. The goal is to help the whole person by relieving the physical and non-physical suffering disease may bring through a network of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and pharmacists.

Emory's palliative care team physicians are certified by the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine.

To learn more on supportive care for breast cancer patients, visit the Winship Cancer Institute's information on supportive (palliative) care.

Nutritional Services

Nutrition plays an important role in breast cancer prevention and treatment. Recommendations about diet and eating for cancer patients can be different from general suggestions for healthful eating. This can be confusing for many patients, as these new suggestions may go against conventional wisdom.

To learn more, visit Winship Cancer Institute's nutritional services page or call (404) 778-5646 to schedule an appointment with the nutritionist.

Lymphedema Therapy

Our specially trained physical therapist can help you understand what lymphedema is, what can trigger it, and ways to prevent or manage symptoms. Lymphedema specialists/physical therapists are available by appointment to discuss any concerns regarding lymphedema.

To learn more, visit Winship Cancer Institute's Lymphedema Clinic.

Reconstructive Plastic Breast Surgery

The removal of one or both breasts because of cancer can alter a patient's body image and lead to anxiety, depression, or impaired sexual function. Studies reveal that breast reconstruction can improve a patient's body image, sense of well-being, and quality of life. Surgeons at Emory University Hospital are leaders in an innovative breast-conserving surgery for breast cancer patients and have been since 1975.

The development of the musculocutaneous flap procedure by Emory plastic surgeons became the foundation for techniques that are now the standard for breast reconstructive surgery. Called breast-conserving therapy, it combines breast cancer surgery and breast reconstructive surgery during the same operation. Working together, a breast cancer surgeon and breast plastic surgeon remove the cancerous tumor and immediately reconstruct the breast using the patient's own tissue.

Breast reconstruction surgery is an option for patients who have had a mastectomy. Emory Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons can rebuild the breast to nearly the same size and shape as it was before, and the nipple and areola can also be reconstructed. Breast Reconstruction techniques vary but the most innovative breast surgery is the Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery Perforator (DIEP) Flap. Emory Breast Surgeons use skin and fat from the lower abdominal area to recreate the breast using microsurgery.

The Emory breast reconstruction services include:

Breast Conservation Therapy

Breast conservation therapy (BCT), also known as breast oncoplastic surgery, is one approach for women with breast cancer where the lesion is removed and breast tissue is preserved. Occasionally the patient requires partial reconstruction using their own tissue at the time of lumpectomy. Albert Losken, MD, an Emory plastic surgeon, notes that this approach combines the principles of oncology with those of plastic surgery, and is beneficial for numerous reasons.

“Breast cancer surgeons are typically faced with two conflicting issues,” says Dr. Losken. “Their primary goal is to remove as much tissue as possible for effective cancer control, while at the same time trying to preserve breast tissue to prevent a poor aesthetic outcome. By working together as a team, we are able to address these issues simultaneously, maximizing both the cancer and cosmetic outcomes.”

Emory surgeons Mark D. Walsh, MD, Grant W. Carlson, MD, and Dr. Losken, are among a select group of surgeons performing this procedure. Dr. Walsh explains that before breast oncoplastic surgery, breast cancer surgeons just removed the cancerous tissue, which often resulted in an undesirable cosmetic outcome.

“Oncoplastic surgery enables the surgeon to remove more tissue and ensure clear margins, while minimizing the potential for a breast deformity. Not every patient can have breast conservation, but oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery will enable patients to save their breast. Whether the defect is small or large,” says Dr. Losken, “the oncoplastic approach allows for preservation of breast shape through breast tissue rearrangement or local flap replacement plastic surgical procedures. Surgery on the opposite breast, such as a lift or a reduction will often improve results and maintain symmetry.”

In women who are not candidates for BCT or who require total mastectomy, many good options still exist. Some women may be candidates for the “nipple-sparing” mastectomy which along with immediate reconstruction can give very natural results. Surgeons replace breast tissue with implants or their own tissue taken from the back or lower abdomen (DIEP or TRAM flap). The reconstructed breast should have the same shape, feel and nipple. The nipple may retain some sensation. This is often an option for women who are at high risk of breast cancer and wish to have their breast removed as risk reducing surgery.

The most important thing to remember is that Emory Breast Center surgeons can perform the most innovative breast reconstruction techniques. “Our goal is to remove the cancer and keep the appearance of the patient’s natural breast,” says Dr. Walsh.