Breast Cancer Therapy

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Breast Cancer Therapy
Breast Cancer Therapy
Video: Breast Cancer Therapy
Video: Breast Cancer Treatment 2023, February

Breast cancer: therapy

After the diagnosis of “breast cancer”, the patient has time to decide in which hospital the initial treatment should be carried out. Breast cancer operations take place in hospitals in special surgical or gynecological departments or at breast centers. The subsequent therapies are partly carried out as an inpatient or outpatient. The clinical treatment of breast cancer begins with the planning of the operation and additional measures. The most important therapeutic measure is the complete removal of the tumor from the breast by surgery. Complementary treatments are radiation therapy and drug treatments. The aim of the measures is to stop cancer growth and prevent it from spreading throughout the body.


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  • Breast cancer surgery
  • Drug cancer therapies
  • radiotherapy
  • Reconstruction of the breast
  • Quality criteria
  • Whom can I ask?
  • How are the costs going to be covered?
  • Qualified care by a family doctor

Breast cancer surgery

The majority of breast cancer operations today can be carried out without conserving the breast. Important prerequisites for successful treatment with breast-conserving surgery include surgical experience and close cooperation between the operating doctor and doctors from the fields of pathology, radiology, nuclear medicine and radiation therapy.

In some patients, chemotherapy (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) may be given before surgery to shrink a large tumor. In certain cases, radical breast surgery (mastectomy) may need to be done, which involves removing the entire breast. This is necessary when breast-conserving surgery cannot completely remove the tumor or tumors.

One or more axillary lymph nodes are also removed as part of an operation. This makes it possible to determine whether these are infected with cancer cells. Under certain conditions (small tumor and inconspicuous lymph nodes before the operation) it is sufficient for the diagnosis or prognosis of lymph node involvement to first remove the so-called sentinel or sentinel lymph nodes. This is the first lymph node in the lymphatic drainage area of ​​the breast that is attacked by cancer cells. If this is tumor-free, the remaining lymph nodes do not need to be removed.

Drug cancer therapies

Medicinal cancer therapies work throughout the body and are known as "systemic" treatment. Different drugs are used depending on the type of cancer.

  • Chemotherapy: Medicines are used that inhibit cell division and cause the cell to die, so-called cytostatics. Adjuvant chemotherapy is started after an operation to prevent the development of metastases or to eliminate any metastases that may be present. Chemotherapy before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) aims to shrink a tumor. Chemotherapy can be carried out on an outpatient or inpatient basis in a hospital or by a resident doctor who specializes in cancer treatment.
  • Hormone therapy: It is used for cancers whose growth is particularly sensitive to hormones, especially the hormone estrogen. These cancer cells have a particularly large number of hormone receptors. The administration of "antihormones" can block the effect of the hormones or reduce the body's hormone production, thus slowing down cancer growth. As an adjuvant therapy in addition to surgery, hormone treatment can take several years.
  • Immunotherapy: The tumor tissue examined when making the diagnosis provides information about the pathologically altered molecular properties of the cancer cells. Depending on the nature of the cancer cell, so-called “targeted” drugs block important biochemical signal chains for tumor cells and thus support the immune system. The drugs can act at the receiving points (receptors) of the cells or via the messenger substances. For cancer cells that have significantly more HER2 receptors (human epidermal growth factor receptors number 2), treatment with a special antibody drug that targets cells with HER2 receptors is an option.

Further information on drug cancer therapy can be found at


Radiation therapy is also known as radio-oncological treatment. Radiation is carried out either after the operation (breast conserving or radical operation) and adjuvant chemotherapy or as primary therapy. The aim of irradiation is to destroy the tumors themselves or any residual tumor that may still be present.

Reconstruction of the breast

The breast is restored either during the tumor surgery or at a later date. Numerous methods are currently available for reconstruction, with breast reconstructions either being carried out with the body's own tissue or with implants.

Quality criteria

Experience in the treatment of breast cancer of the specialists working at a hospital is an important quality criterion. The German Cancer Center recommends that breast cancer should be treated in a specialized hospital clinic that has sufficient experience and where all the specialist areas involved in diagnosis and therapy are represented.

In 2000, the European Society of Breast Cancer Specialists (EUSOMA) published special requirements for breast centers in a position paper to ensure high-quality breast cancer treatment across Europe. The quality criteria describe, among other things, the experience of the breast center measured against a minimum number of operations, the professional qualifications of the treating specialists, the staff and equipment as well as the care offered for patients.

Another quality criterion is that all specialist areas involved in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer are available and work together in an interdisciplinary manner. These include hematology and internal oncology, gynecology, surgery, pathology, radiology and radiation therapy.

Whom can I ask?

Breast cancer therapy is inpatient and then outpatient in a hospital. Therapy planning is carried out by a specialist doctor who specializes in surgery, gynecology or internal medicine with an additional subject in hemato-oncology. Various medical disciplines are involved in the therapy. The treating breast specialist works closely with radiologists, pathologists, nuclear medicine specialists and radiation therapists in order to determine further examinations, additional therapies or follow-up measures.

Breast centers or breast health centers specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and care of breast cancer patients. In order to ensure a high quality of breast cancer treatment and to make it recognizable for patients, quality certificates for breast centers are issued by medical specialist societies or certification bodies. The collaboration between the hospital or breast center and a resident gynecologist is important for optimal medical follow-up care for the patient after hospital treatment.

Note A list of the certified breast health centers can be found on the website of the Austrian Certification Commission.

How are the costs going to be covered?

The costs of breast cancer therapy are covered by the social security system; for certain services (e.g. inpatient stays, medical aids and medical aids) - depending on the health insurance company - patient contributions are provided. The prescription fee must be paid for prescription drugs. For more information about the respective provisions, please contact your health insurance company, which you can find on the social security website.

For more information, see The cost coverage of medication, What does the hospital stay cost? and under rehabilitation and spa stay.

Qualified care by a family doctor

In addition to clinical breast cancer treatment in the hospital, resident doctors offer accompanying care for cancer patients. The goals are to improve the quality of life, alleviate the side effects of clinical cancer therapy, strengthen the immune system, and support rehabilitation. The “Accompanying Cancer Treatment” diploma recognized by the Austrian Medical Association (ÖÄK) is awarded to doctors who have acquired basic knowledge of clinical oncology and complementary medical measures.

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