Referral Line 800-216-5556 | Text Size: View larger font-size View regular font-size

Breast Cancer

Last Updated 11/4/2011 11:42:26 AM

A diagnosis of breast cancer is one no woman wants to receive. There is good news about breast cancer, however. Advances in prevention, early detection, and treatments have resulted in better survival rates. At El Camino Hospital's Cancer Center, we have the most advanced diagnostic tools and the leading treatment approaches, as well as clinical trials that give you access to the latest experimental treatment modalities. We will put together a treatment plan that's right for you with plenty of support for you and your family.


Regular screening mammograms can be one of a woman's most effective defenses against breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, when breast cancer is found early and is still localized, the relative survival rate at five years is 96 percent.

El Camino Hospital's Breast Health Center now offers digital mammography, which can detect early and highly curable cancers too small to be felt as well as computer-aided detection which gives the radiologist a "second pair of eyes."

If the mammogram shows a lump, an abnormal area, or other changes in the breast, the referring physician will likely order a follow up diagnostic test such as breast MRI, ultrasound, needle and surgical biopsies, to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of breast cancer.


The treatment you and your doctor choose depends on the stage of your disease - how serious or advanced it is - as well as such factors as the size of the tumor in relation to the size of your breast; the results of lab tests; your age and general health.


Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. Your surgeon, a breast cancer expert, will explain your surgical options, comparing the benefits and risks.

Breast conservation surgery (lumpectomy): a procedure in which the cancer is removed but not the breast. Sometimes an excisional biopsy serves as a lumpectomy because the surgeon removes the whole lump.

Mastectomy: a procedure in which the breast is removed. In most cases, the surgeon also removes lymph nodes under the arm.

Studies have shown equal survival rates for breast conservation surgery (with radiation therapy) and mastectomy for early stages of breast cancer.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Most women receive radiation therapy after breast conservation surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells in the breast, although it is sometimes also done in addition to a mastectomy, depending on the size of the tumor and other factors. If the tumor is large or hard to remove, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy before surgery to shrink the tumor. Radiation therapy is an outpatient procedure that is performed in our radiation oncology department. This external-beam treatment, which only takes a few minutes, is usually done five days a week for several weeks.

Another treatment option for certain breast cancer patients is accelerated partial breast radiation which uses high-dose brachytherapy to deliver radiation inside the patient as close to the cancer is possible. Length of treatment may be as little as one week with this option. Watch this video to learn more about brachytherapy.

CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery

The CyberKnife is a radiation therapy device that is able to pinpoint solid tumors anywhere in the body with sub-millimeter accuracy using image-guidance technology. As a result, no incisions, anesthesia or hospitalization are required, and usually only one to five treatment sessions are all that are required. Read more about the CyberKnife.


Chemotherapy for breast cancer is usually a combination of anticancer drugs, which may be given as a pill or by injection into a vein. Either way, the drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, affecting cancer cells, as well as other rapidly dividing cells in the body. Side effects depend mainly on the specific drugs and the dose.

You will most likely receive chemotherapy on an outpatient basis at the Cancer Center's infusion center , although some women need to stay in the hospital during treatment.

Hormone Therapy and Biological Therapy

Your lab tests may have shown that you have the type of breast tumor that will respond best to one of these drug therapies.

Participating in Clinical Trials

Clinical trials provide access to leading-edge therapies that are being researched in the hope of providing help for cancer survivors today and in the future. The Cancer Center at El Camino Hospital works with esteemed partners and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), to offer patients the opportunity to participate in ongoing clinical trials . Ask your physician about how to participate in a clinical trial.

We encourage you to take an active part in making decisions about your care, and we are here to answer any questions you may have. If you are concerned about breast cancer and would like help finding a physician, please contact the El Camino Hospital Health Line at 800-216-5556.


Breast self-examination
If you detect any changes in your breasts--a lump, discharge, swelling, dimpling, or nipple abnormalities--see your doctor as soon as possible for evaluation.

Clinical examination
If you are between the ages of 20 and 39, you should have a clinical breast examination by a physician or nurse trained to evaluate breast problems every three years; annually after age 40.

Screening mammogram
Mammography is a low-dose x-ray of the breasts to detect cancer or other problems before a lump becomes large enough to be felt. The National Cancer Institute recommends women over 40 have a screening mammogram every one to two years; the American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram for women over 40 every year. You should discuss a schedule with your doctor, taking into account any risk factors that would indicate starting at an earlier age.

Education and Support

We offer a variety of support programs  that will give you and your family the tools you need to meet the psychological, social, and spiritual challenges related to cancer and its treatment.

  • Therapies that complement care, such as lymphedema therapy, acupuncture, and massage
  • A specialty boutique
  • Classes on nutrition, yoga, guided imagery, qigong, art therapy
  • Transportation and other services
  • Chaplain services and spiritual support
  • Support and education groups
  • Financial counseling
  • Convenient on-site lab and radiology services

Additional Resources

ABCNews On Call Plus - Breast Cancer

U.S. Department of Health & Human Resources

National Cancer Institute

American Cancer Society

NCCN Breast Cancer Treatment Guidelines

Facts about HER2 Testing for Breast Cancer Patients


Calculate your risk of developing breast cancer

Take our Breast Cancer Profiler. You could win a $100 Athleta gift card.

Breast Cancer Information and Services

Image of PDF icon click to download
Download our brochure on
Breast Cancer Information and Services at the Cancer Center

Breast Cancer
Screening Update

There has been a great deal of recent controversy surrounding the latest U.S Preventive Services Task Force recommendation regarding routine mammograms. El Camino Hospital believes the decision of appropriate screening is best served between a doctor and a patient. Read more.