Breast Cancer: A Journey of Innovation

By Dr. Deidre Flanagan March 29, 2017

Breast cancer continues to be one of the most common cancers in women. Great progress has been made in the treatment of breast cancer.

First surgical successes

The first major surgical advances came in the 1970s when research showed there was the same survival rate for women who underwent breast preservation using lumpectomy (surgical removal of tumor[s] in the breast) and radiation, as there was for women who had a mastectomy (complete removal of the breast).

More surgical options for women

This discovery, along with rapid developments in breast reconstruction, opened a whole new avenue of surgical options for women. No longer were women faced with a body-altering mastectomy as their only choice of treatment. Breast biopsies also started to become to become less invasive, as the need for an operating room procedure was steadily replaced by image-guided needle biopsies.

Less pain, more safety

By the early 2000s, the traditional axillary dissection (removal of about two-thirds of the lymph nodes in the armpit) was replaced by sentinel lymph node biopsy. This allows surgeons to remove only one or two lymph nodes from the armpit to test for cancer spread. It is a much less painful procedure and reduces the risk of nerve injury and lymphedema (arm swelling).

Faster radiation therapy

By the late 2000s, advances in radiation therapy allowed surgeons to place specialized balloon devices at the time of lumpectomy surgery to deliver radiation treatments. Called brachytherapy, this procedure allows radiation to be completed in as little as five days instead of the traditional six weeks.

How women can care for their health

Our challenge for you is to tell the women in your life to be proactive about their health. Remind them to get their annual mammogram. If they are too young to get a mammogram, then encourage them to have an annual checkup.

  • Get your annual mammogram

    St. Elizabeth Breast Center makes it easy for women to get their annual mammogram without an appointment by offering Walk-in-Wednesdays between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

  • Spread awareness on social media

    We not only want to raise awareness for breast cancer, but we also want to focus on women’s health in general. Take a stand to support women’s health throughout breast cancer awareness month by changing your Facebook profile picture.

Know someone battling breast cancer?

Check out some of our cancer blogs that offer advice and help to those who are battling cancer, or know someone that is.

There are many ways you can get involved – from educating yourself to attending an event or spreading awareness through social media. Dedicate a little bit of your time this month to support the women in your life.

We’re here to help

Our general surgeons are always at the forefront of breast cancer surgery. We were the first in the Fox Valley to offer image-guided stereotactic needle biopsies and sentinel lymph node biopsies. We provide carefully coordinated care with medical and radiation oncologists and plastic surgeons.

Schedule an appointment for special breast cancer services at the location nearest you.