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Treatments for breast cancer

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, our specialist team at Parkside Hospital make sure that you get the best care and treatment.

The main types of treatments for breast cancer are:

  • surgery (an operation to remove the breast cancer)
  • radiotherapy (this uses high energy X-rays to destroy breast cancer cells)
  • chemotherapy (this uses drugs to destroy breast cancer cells)
  • hormone therapy (this stops your hormones from helping breast cancer cells to grow)
  • targeted therapy (this uses drugs to find and attack breast cancer cells)

You may have one or more of these treatments. This depends on different factors, such as the type and size of the cancer and your general health.

Our breast consultants are leaders in their field. They explain the options and prepare an individual treatment plan. Expert surgeons perform breast cancer surgery at Parkside Hospital. Other breast cancer treatments are available at our neighbouring site, Cancer Centre London.

Breast cancer surgery

Surgery is often the first treatment for breast cancer. The two main types of surgery are:

  • breast-conserving surgery to remove the cancer and some surrounding breast tissue
  • a mastectomy to remove the whole breast

The operation that you have depends on your diagnosis and personal preference. In many cases, we can then offer you breast reconstruction to make a new breast shape.

The private health insurance company Bupa recognises Parkside Hospital as a high quality breast surgery and reconstruction centre. We have four fully equipped operating theatres and a dedicated cancer care (oncology) ward for you to recover. A specially trained breast care nurse supports you throughout your treatment.

After your surgery, we can arrange specialised breast cancer physiotherapy. This can help you to resume your normal daily routine as quickly as possible.

Breast-conserving surgery

If you have breast-conserving surgery, your surgeon removes the cancer from the breast and a ‘margin’ or border of tissue around it. They try to keep as much of your breast tissue and shape as possible. This procedure is also called a wide local excision or lumpectomy.

You may have a thin wire put into the breast tissue before surgery if the cancer is small and not obvious to feel. This wire shows the surgeon the exact area to remove.

We have an accredited pathology laboratory at Parkside Hospital scientists examine the margin of breast tissue that has been removed around the cancer under a microscope. If they do not find any cancer cells, your report says that you have a clear margin. This means that you are unlikely to need more surgery and there is less chance of the cancer returning.

If the margin around the cancer is not clear, you may need to have more breast tissue removed. The procedure to remove any remaining cancer is called re-excision.

We usually offer you radiotherapy at Cancer Centre London after having breast-conserving surgery. This is intended to destroy any cancer cells that may still be in the breast.

A mastectomy

About 1 in 4 people diagnosed with breast cancer need a mastectomy to remove a breast. Your surgeon may recommend this operation if the cancer affects a large area of the breast or has spread throughout the breast. Some people decide to have a mastectomy if they are at high risk of getting breast cancer, as shown by genetic testing.

The type of mastectomy that you have depends on your diagnosis and whether you want breast reconstruction. During a standard mastectomy, your surgeon removes all the breast tissue (including the nipple) and most of the skin covering the breast. If you have breast reconstruction, you may be offered a:

  • skin-sparing mastectomy, where your surgeon removes all the breast tissue (including the nipple) but leaves most of the skin covering the breast
  • nipple-sparing mastectomy, where your surgeon removes all the breast tissue but leaves the nipple and most of the skin covering the breast

You and your surgeon discuss what type of surgery suits you best.

Most people recover from a mastectomy well. We are sensitive to your needs at this time and offer practical and emotional support services. If you have a mastectomy, your surgeon normally gives you the option of having breast reconstruction.

Breast reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is an operation to make a new breast shape after the whole or part of your breast has been removed. At Parkside Hospital, we have an experienced team of oncoplastic (breast reconstructive) and plastic surgeons. They aim to create a replacement breast that looks as much as possible like your other breast.

You can either have breast reconstruction:

  • at the same time as your breast cancer surgery (immediate reconstruction)
  • after your breast cancer surgery (delayed reconstruction)

Some people find that immediate reconstruction helps them to cope with the loss of their original breast and improves their confidence. Others prefer to wait until they have finished their cancer treatment or a later time.

We offer different types of breast reconstruction:

  • Breast reconstruction using an implant: Your surgeon makes a new breast shape by putting a breast implant under or in front of the chest muscle. This implant is a silicone balloon filled with silicone gel or salt water. It may be held in place with surgical mesh (a woven material to support the implant)
  • Breast reconstruction using your own tissue: Your surgeon may be able to take a ‘flap’ of tissue from another part of your body to make a new breast shape. They can use tissue from your tummy, back, buttocks or thighs. This technique is called flap reconstruction. It can give a more natural shape and feel to your new breast
  • Breast reconstruction using an implant and your own tissue: Your surgeon uses an implant and tissue from another part of your body to make a new breast shape.

We explain the options and offer a full range of cosmetic procedures to improve the final appearance of your breasts. For example, we can create a new nipple or inject fat into your new breast to correct any dents or unevenness (lipomodelling). We can also reshape your other breast to match the new breast.

If you do not have breast reconstruction surgery or decide to delay it, the breast care nurses at Cancer Centre London support you. They can help with bra fitting and putting an artificial breast shape called a prosthesis inside your bra.

Lymph node surgery

Breast cancer can sometimes spread to your lymph nodes. These small glands are part of your body’s immune system.

Before you have breast cancer surgery, we perform an ultrasound scan to check the lymph nodes in your armpit (axilla). If any of the lymph nodes look abnormal, we carry out a biopsy and take a sample for testing under a microscope. You may need all or most of the lymph nodes in your armpit removed if the sample contains cancer cells. This procedure may take place at the same time as the breast cancer surgery and is called an axillary clearance.

Even if your lymph nodes look normal during the tests before surgery, we need to confirm whether the cancer has spread. We carry out a procedure called a sentinel lymph node biopsy during the breast cancer surgery. The sentinel nodes are the first lymph nodes that the cancer is likely to reach if it spreads.

To find the sentinel lymph nodes, we inject a harmless amount of radioactive liquid and a blue dye into your breast. The lymph nodes that pick up the radioactive liquid or turn blue first are the sentinel lymph nodes. Your surgeon then removes between one and three of these nodes and they are tested under a microscope. If the sentinel nodes contain cancer cells, you may need surgery to remove more lymph nodes or radiotherapy.

After lymph node surgery or radiotherapy, there is a small chance of developing lymphoedema. This is swelling of a limb caused by fluid building up in the body’s tissues. We have a lymphoedema service to help manage this condition through specialised massage and other techniques.

Book now

At Parkside Hospital, we provide first-class independent healthcare. Our specialists care for you throughout your breast cancer treatment in a comfortable, discreet and supportive environment.

For more information about surgery or to book an appointment with a breast care consultant, please complete the form below or call 020 3944 0568.