Doctor and patient

From Diagnosis to Treatment to Survivorship

We're here through every step of your breast cancer journey.

Among women in America, breast cancer trails only skin cancer as the most commonly diagnosed cancer. Advances in early detection, however, have raised the five-year survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage I breast cancers to almost 100 percent. Currently, there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. At Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers, we have partnered with our Breast Care to provide exceptional screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up for patients with breast cancer in Greater Houston.

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What is Breast Cancer?

Like most cancers, breast cancer begins as an uncontrolled growth of normal cells in the tissues of the breast. The vast majority of breast cancers are carcinomas – a type of cancer that forms in the epithelial cells that line organs and tissues throughout the body. In the case of breast cancer, this formation is found in mammary glands. When a tumor grows large enough, it can be spotted on an X-ray or felt as a lump during a screening examination.

The good news is that most lumps found in the breast are non-cancerous (benign). However, the presence of some non-cancerous tumors can indicate a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the future. Cancerous (malignant) tumors, on the other hand can grow into surrounding tissues and potentially metastasize (or spread) to other parts of the body.

What are the Types of Breast Cancer?

Ductal Carcinomas

Many breast cancer tumors are ductal carcinomas, which start in the ducts that move milk from the breast to the nipple. Lobular carcinoma starts in the glands of the breast that produce milk. In rare cases, breast cancer occurs in other areas of the breast.

Estrogen Receptor (ER) Positive Breast Cancer

Many breast cancers have estrogen receptors on the surface of their cells, and as a result are sensitive to the hormone estrogen. They are called estrogen receptor-positive cancer or ER-positive cancer.

Progesterone Receptor (PR) Positive Breast Cancer

Other breast cancer cells have progesterone receptors on the surface of the cell making them sensitive to progesterone. These tumors are called PR-positive cancers

HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

Some women have HER2-positive breast cancer. HER2 is a gene that helps cells grow, divide and repair themselves. When cancer cells have too many copies of this gene, they grow faster.

Tumor cells can be any combination of ER/PR and HER2 positive or ER/PR and HER2 negative with excess of receptors on the cells surface.

Breast Cancer Symptoms

Sometimes there are no symptoms of breast cancer in its early stages. However, talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you notice anything unusual.

  • Any lump, thickening or swelling in the breast or armpit
  • Clear or bloody discharge from the nipple
  • Pain or persistent tenderness of the breast , nipple or armpit
  • Change in size or shape of the breast or nipple
  • Inverted or flat nipple
  • Scaly, red, swollen or dimpled skin around the breast or nipple

Breast Cancer Prevention and Screening

While nothing guarantees that you don't develop cancer, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and stay healthy.

  • Healthy food choices
    • Eat foods high in fiber - try to increase the amount of fiber in your diet to between 20 and 30 grams daily. High-fiber foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
    • Limit processed foods, sweets and salt.
    • Avoid foods high in saturated fats
    • Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
    • Choose foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
    • Don't overeat.
    • Watch portion size and calories.
    • Limit sweets.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Limit the amount of alcohol - wine, beer or mixed drinks - to less than one drink per day, or avoid it completely.
  • Maintain a healthy weight..
  • Engage in regular physical activity, preferably 45 to 60 minutes five days per week.
  • Don't Smoke.
  • Get regular check-ups and talk to your doctor about regular cancer screenings.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can develop for a variety of reasons. Talk to your doctor about your risk.

  • Family history - Your risk may increase if anyone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly mothers, sisters and daughters.
  • Age - Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women older than age 50.
  • Race - While the risk is higher for white women, African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer.
  • Menstruation and menopause - Beginning menstruation before age 12 or entering menopause after age 55 means prolonged lifetime exposure to estrogen and progesterone, which may increase your risk.
  • Hormone therapy - Risk increases when the combination of estrogen and progesterone has been used for four or more years. This treatment for menopausal symptoms may also make malignant tumors harder to detect on mammograms.
  • Not having children or pregnancy after age 30 - Estrogen levels are lower during pregnancy, which may protect breast tissue from estrogen exposure.
  • Exposure to radiation - Risk increases if you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, but the risk is greatest if treatments occurred as an adolescent during breast development.
  • Genetics - Mutations in one of several genes, namely BRCA1 and BRCA2 - genes that normally help prevent cancer by making proteins that keep cells from growing abnormally - increases risk. Since these gene mutations can be inherited, genetic counseling and testing is available for those women who elect to get tested to see if they also carry the mutation.
  • Personal history - Having breast cancer in one breast significantly increases your risk of developing it in the other breast.
  • Alcohol consumption - Risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed, starting with two alcoholic drinks daily.
  • Excess weight - Risk increases if you gain weight during adolescence or after menopause or if you have more body fat around and above the waist.

Breast Cancer Screening Tests

When the breast cancer is discovered early, you have more treatment options and a better chance for a cure. Screening is essential in finding breast cancer in this treatable stage, before symptoms are felt.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening tests for women at average risk for breast cancer. Women with a higher risk should talk with their doctor about when to begin screening, and which tests they should use.

Breast cancer screenings include:

  • Mammogram is recommended annually beginning at age 40. Make an appointment online.
  • 3D Mammogram (Breast Tomosynthesis) allows for earlier detection. Make an appointment online.
  • Breast MRI for additional screening in high-risk women

Diagnostic Procedures

In addition to a diagnostic mammogram, other diagnostic procedures help characterize breast abnormalities to either identify, or rule out, breast cancer. Click on each procedure to get more details.

Breast Cancer Treatment

Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers develop a personalized treatment plan to best meet the needs of each individual with breast cancer. Based on your diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be recommended separately or concurrently as part of your treatment.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be used to treat specific cancers, control tumor growth, relieve symptoms such as pain, shrink tumors before surgery or radiation therapy, or destroy microscopic metastases.

3D Treatment Planning

3-D treatment planning leverages CT technology to provide the most accurate, highly conformal treatment planning for patients undergoing radiation therapy. The accuracy of the system ensures that radiation is targeted with the highest level of precision, ensuring delivery directly to the tumor and reducing exposure to normal tissue.

Surgery

The treatment plan for breast cancer may involve surgery.

After diagnostic testing has determined the location and size of the tumor and stage of cancer, it will be determined if surgery is a good option for treatment. Memorial Hermann offers a full range of surgical treatment options for breast cancer.

A specially trained team of oncologists and cancer nurses employ the latest technology and techniques. We provide individualized information to help you make the most informed decisions about your breast cancer treatment.

Medical Oncology

A subspecialty of internal medicine, medical oncology focuses on the diagnosis and medical treatment of solid malignant tumors and malignant hematologic disorders. Medical oncologists establish and evaluate the breast cancer diagnosis, determine the cancer’s stage and collaborate with surgeons, pathologists, radiation oncologists and other medical specialists to plan the optimal course of cancer treatment.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is another option to help patients fight cancer. Our advanced technologies include:

  • Varian Trilogy and Clinac linear accelerators
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy
  • Image-guided radiation therapy
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy

Why Choose Memorial Hermann for Treatment?

Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers are accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ (ACoS) Commission on Cancer (CoC). This rare distinction is given to cancer programs that uphold the highest standard of care for patients. When you choose Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers for your cancer treatment, you can rest assured you will receive the best possible care delivered by a compassionate team of caregivers in a calm, healing environment.

Contact Us

For more information about Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers, including how to get connected to our support services or an affiliated provider, please call (833) 770-7771 or fill out the form below to be connected to one of our Oncology Nurse Navigators.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please read our Frequently Asked Questions.

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You!

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If you need more immediate assistance, please call us during business hours at (833) 770-7771. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.