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Experts at Houston Methodist provide leading-edge breast cancer care to both women and men.
We provide advanced cancer care at seven locations across the Greater Houston area, allowing you or your loved one to receive treatment close to home or work.
Why Choose Houston Methodist for Breast Cancer Care
Our experts are committing to providing comprehensive cancer care, creating personal connections to ensure each patient receives excellent care in an atmosphere filled with collaboration, research and compassion.
The benefits of choosing our breast cancer care team include:
- Oncologists, nurses and staff with decades of experience studying and treating all breast cancer types and stages
- A team of medical, surgical and radiation oncologists and plastic surgeons who work together to design the most effective treatment plan for your specific breast cancer and unique lifestyle needs
- Advanced diagnostics and treatment options, including minimally invasive surgical procedures and advanced breast reconstruction techniques
- Oncology nurse navigators who guide you through your cancer care — from diagnosis through survivorship
- Genetic and nutritional counseling, psychosocial support and massage therapy to help you through treatment
- Access to clinical trials offering potentially promising breast cancer treatments not available to the general public
About Breast Cancer
What Causes Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer occurs when cells of the breast, often those located in the milk-producing ducts, begin to grow out of control. In some cases, breast cancer is caused by known hormonal or genetic changes. But, in other cases, it's not always exactly clear why breast cancer develops.
Researchers have identified the following breast cancer risk factors:
- Family history of breast cancer
- Personal history of breast or ovarian cancer
- Personal history of noncancerous (benign) tumors and tissue removal
- Mutations in breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2)
- Menstruation before age 12
- Giving birth to a first child after age 30 or being childless
- Beginning menopause after age 55
- Aging – most cases occur after age 50
- Consuming more than one alcoholic drink daily
- Being overweight or obese – especially after menopause or if excess body fat is in the upper body
- Taking birth control pills at least four years before a first, full-term pregnancy
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Estrogen produced by the body
- Occupational radiation exposure
Having one or more risk factor does not mean you will definitely develop breast cancer, and having no risk factors does not mean you can't get it. It is advisable to review your family medical history with your doctor and understand your risk for breast cancer.
Our High Risk Program for breast cancer identifies and serves patients with an increased likelihood of developing breast cancer. We collaborate with primary care doctors, OB-GYNs and gastroenterologists, who refer their high-risk patients for more advanced evaluation.
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented?
It is advisable to review your family medical history with your doctor and understand your risk for breast cancer.
Still, all women are at risk for this type of cancer, and it's a risk that increases with age. This is why it's important to know the annual screenings that are key to early breast cancer detection, even if you don't have a family history of it.
What Are the Types of Breast Cancer?
Cancer can originate from different types of cells or tissues in the breast. Responses to treatment may differ, depending on the type, which include:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – a common, noninvasive breast cancer in which abnormal cells develop in the lining of the milk ducts without spreading to nearby tissue
- Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) – an area of abnormal cell growth that increases risk of later invasive breast cancer development. It is found in the lobules, or milk-producing organs, without invading nearby tissue. Women who have had LCIS have a higher chance of developing an invasive breast cancer.
- Infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC) – also known as invasive ductal carcinoma, this is the most common breast cancer. It starts in the milk ducts, grows into the breast’s fatty tissue and can spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream.
- Infiltrating lobular carcinoma (ILC) – also known as invasive lobular carcinoma, starts in the lobules and can spread
- Inflammatory breast cancer – a less common invasive cancer that does not produce lumps or tumors. It makes the breast skin appear red and feel warm. The breast may become larger and more tender. It is hard to detect in its early stages.
- Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) – unlike other breast cancers, triple negative breast cancer lacks estrogen and progesterone receptors and makes very little of the HER2 protein — which are the targets of many of the breast cancer treatments available
What Are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer symptoms include:
- Lumps, hard knots or thickening inside the breast or underarm
- Breast swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
- Changes in breast size or shape
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- An itchy, scaly nipple sore or rash
- Nipple or breast inversion or retraction
- Sudden nipple discharge
- New pain in one spot that does not go away
You can improve your chances of catching breast cancer early by performing regular breast self-examinations. A clinical breast exam should be part of your annual well-woman checkup performed by your doctor.
How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects breast cancer, the following tests may be used for diagnosis and staging:
- Chest X-ray
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy – a thin needle used to remove cells or fluid from a breast lump
- Core biopsy – a wider needle used to remove a larger breast tissue sample
- Skin biopsy – a small skin sample taken if skin changes are found your breast
- Surgical biopsy – removal of part of a lump (incisional biopsy) or an entire abnormal area (excisional biopsy)
- Minimally invasive biopsy – a fine needle extracts tissue through an incision for analysis
- MRI-guided biopsy – an MRI scan of the breast identifies suspicious tissue and guides a biopsy needle to the site for tissue collection
- Ultrasound-guided biopsy – an ultrasound identifies suspicious tissue and guides a biopsy needle to the site for tissue collection
- Stereotactic biopsy – A digital X-ray guides doctors to a biopsy site for tissue collection
- Ductography – an imaging technique used to identify or diagnose breast abnormalities that may cause nipple discharge. A contrast material is injected in the breast’s mammary duct before a mammogram. The contrast marks the breast ducts, making abnormalities more visible during the mammogram.
- Genetic testing – laboratory tests performed to detect cancer genes provide information to help make health care decisions
How Is Breast Cancer Treated?
At Houston Methodist, we are dedicated to providing leading-edge breast cancer treatment, including advanced breast surgery techniques and breast reconstruction. Our goal is to provide effective treatments, while preserving the form and function of the breast whenever possible.
What Breast Cancer Survivorship Resources Are Available?
Our goal is to improve the quality of life for breast cancer survivors. Houston Methodist’s specialists and staff are committed to collaborating with your doctor and consulting with you to develop a personalized survivorship plan for any breast cancer stage. Our experts answer questions, listen to your concerns and provide recommendations based on your circumstances.
Our other breast cancer survivorship services include:
- Genetic, financial and nutritional counseling
- Family planning referrals
- Psychosocial support
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation