Breast Cancer Survivorship

About Breast Cancer

Making the right diagnosis is a critical component of successful cancer treatment. Penn's cancer specialists have wide-ranging experience treating all forms of breast cancer, including those that occur only rarely. Their expert understanding of the disease allows them to create cancer treatment plans that are customized for every patient.

Breast cancer, the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast, is the most common type of cancer among women, excluding skin cancer. Breast cancer forms in the tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk). It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.

Read more About Breast Cancer Treatment at Penn Medicine

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Doctors at Penn Medicine believe that early detection tests for breast cancer save many thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women took advantage of these tests.

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Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast Cancer Surgery options include breast-conserving surgery such as lumpectomy and partial mastectomy; total mastectomy; modified radical mastectomy; and radical mastectomy.

Two types of breast reconstructive surgery are offered at Penn: natural tissue reconstruction and breast implant reconstruction.

Radiation therapy options include accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI), which includes breast brachytherapy and external beam partial breast irradiation; 3-D conformal radiation therapy; image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT); intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT); targeted radiation therapy treatment called MammoSite®; internal mammary node irradiation; and prone breast radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy and biologic therapies for breast cancer include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and vaccine therapy.

Breast cancer clinical trials are also available at Penn.

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Breast Cancer Survivorship

There are more than 12 million cancer survivors living and thriving today as a result of advances in cancer treatment. However, cancer treatments can result in physical, emotional and financial complications long after the therapy is complete. Survivorship programs at Penn Medicine are a distinct phase of breast cancer care and are designed to help patients' transition from their cancer treatment routine to a post-cancer care lifestyle.

Personalized Breast Cancer Survivorship Care

At the end of treatment, breast cancer patients should schedule a survivorship visit with their oncologist and nurse practitioner. At this time, patients are provided with a summary of the treatment received as well as a plan for follow-up care.

Long-term breast cancer survivors should speak to their oncologist and nurse practitioner about scheduling a one-time survivorship-focused consultation with a nurse practitioner or physician. Annual or more frequent follow-up appointments are also available.

Penn cancer providers work one-on-one with patients to develop survivorship care plans. Since every cancer is unique, the plans are tailored to the patients.

The survivorship care plan includes information on:

  • Potential long-term or late side effects of cancer treatment, the symptoms and treatment.
  • Recommendations for cancer screening for disease recurrence or a new cancer.
  • Psychosocial effects, including relationships and sexuality.
  • Planning follow-up visits.

A survivorship care plan encourages patients to review the information with their healthcare team and become active participants in their follow-up care.

Penn also offers breast cancer patients a number of support programs and groups to enhance their survivorship care plans.

Living Well After Cancer

Penn Medicine's Living Well After Cancer™ Program is a nationally recognized program that focuses on issues facing cancer survivors. In 2007, the Abramson Cancer Center was invited to join the LIVESTRONG ™ Survivorship Center of Excellence Network. The program focuses on survivorship, a distinct phase of care.

Personalized Survivorship at the Rena Rowan Breast Center

Long-term breast cancer survivors can speak to their Penn oncologist and nurse practitioner about scheduling a survivorship-focused consultation with a nurse practitioner in the Breast Cancer Survivors' Clinic at the Rena Rowan Breast Center. Annual or more frequent follow-up appointments are also available.

Prescription for Living

Prescription for Living at Pennsylvania Hospital is a survivorship care plan that provides patients with a summary of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. With more people than ever surviving cancer, the Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital at Pennsylvania Hospital created Prescription for Living to provide patients with the information they need to stay healthy after their cancer treatment has ended.

Treatment Summary

Every patient receives a treatment summary specific to their individual case when they complete treatment. These detailed reports document the diagnosis, including cancer stage, specific types of treatment as well as any other medical concerns that may arise as the result of the disease and its treatment. A copy is also sent to primary care providers and other specialists designated by patients.

Follow-Up Schedule

It is important that patients understand and adhere to the follow-up developed for them. This individualized schedule helps the team to monitor patients' health and observe any long-term side effects of treatment.

Late Effects

Not all cancer survivors experience late effects, or issues that arise later as a result of treatment or disease. About two-thirds of survivors experience physical or psychosocial effects of chemotherapy or radiation that persist or develop more than five years from the time of diagnosis. It's important for patients to know about these risks so their health can be appropriately monitored. The cancer care team discusses any pertinent late effects with patients and together develops a plan to monitor and treat late effects.

Clinical Trials

Breast Cancer Trials

Phase III Randomized Trial of the Role of Whole Brain Radiation Therapy in Addition to Radiosurgery... more