A breast cancer diagnosis can leave you overwhelmed and unsure what to do next. We’re here to help you find answers.
Together we’ll discuss how you’re feeling, answer your questions and get started on creating a personalized treatment plan.
At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we approach cancer treatment by understanding the impact it has both physically and mentally. We offer you the latest in advanced treatment and integrative therapies to help reduce the side effects of treatment.
Our combined team of board-certified oncologists, breast surgeons, radiologists, plastic surgeons, nurse navigators and other specialists are experts in treating even the most complex cases of breast cancer.
We’re proud to say that our breast cancer care outcomes beat the national average. Through research, clinical trials and state-of-the-art cancer centers and clinics, high-quality care is always close to home.
Breast cancer occurs when breast cells start to grow out of control and crowd out other, healthy cells. Breast cancer cells can often form tumors that feel like lumps in your breast. If left untreated, it can spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
Symptoms of breast cancer may differ from person to person. You may notice a change in the way your breast feels or the way your skin looks on your breast. You also may see a change in your nipple or have fluid that comes out of your nipple. A common symptom is a painless lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
If you experience any of these symptoms it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care doctors. Our primary care doctors are experts in diagnosing hundreds of conditions. Anytime you have new or unusual symptoms that you are concerned about or are worsening, you should call your doctor’s office to decide on next steps.
If you’ve been told you need to have additional tests, some common diagnostic tests include:
During a mammogram, your breasts will be gently compressed so an X-ray can take photos of your breast tissue at different angles. Many people are surprised that mammograms are more comfortable than they anticipated. There is some pressure applied to your breasts, but the test usually lasts just a few minutes.
An ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging test that bounces soundwaves off your breast tissue and creates a picture of the inside of your breast. During an ultrasound, we’ll move a small device over your skin.
An MRI is a non-invasive imaging test that uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create an image of your breast tissue. This test is usually used after someone has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It can help your doctor determine the size and placement of tumors to help inform your treatment plan.
It’s common for breasts to develop small masses and growths that aren’t cancerous. A biopsy is often used to determine whether a mass is benign (harmless) or made of cancerous tissue. During a biopsy, a small amount of the mass is removed from your breast so it can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. Anesthetic is used to make the procedure more comfortable. Depending on your condition, you might need a biopsy done with a fine needle or a surgical biopsy to remove the mass for testing. We’ll talk to you about which biopsy is the best option for you.
View our diagnostic imaging locations:
Advancements in cancer research have found that each person’s response to cancer treatment is unique. We recognize that no two treatment plans are exactly alike and work closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan. There are many different treatment options available to treat breast cancer. It’s likely you’ll need a combination of treatment options for the best results. Our team of oncologists, surgeons and nurses will work together to find a personalized treatment plan for you.
Some common treatments for breast cancer include:
Surgery is used to remove cancerous tumors or cells that are affected by cancer. Our doctors will recommend the most effective surgery option for your condition. Before surgery, we’ll answer all your questions and make sure you know exactly what to expect before, during and after.
Our surgeons always try to save as much healthy tissue as possible while removing all the cancer cells. If breast cancer is caught early, a lumpectomy (breast-conserving surgery or partial mastectomy) is often used to remove the lumps. When treating later stage breast cancer, mastectomies might be used to remove the entire breast to ensure that all cancer cells are removed.
These surgeries can change the way your body looks and feels. Some women choose to reshape their breasts after treatment with reconstructive surgery.
We have the largest group of plastic surgeons in the Twin Cities with surgeons who specialize in breast reconstruction. Our plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and will work closely with you and your surgical oncologist so they can understand your goals and create a customized plan for achieving them.
Chemotherapy, often called “chemo,” uses drugs to kill cancerous cells throughout the entire body. Your doctor might recommend chemotherapy to treat cancer cells that have spread (metastasized) from the primary tumor. It’s commonly used to treat cancer or stop cancer from growing by shrinking the tumors.
Radiation therapy is used to treat and manage cancer in affected areas of the body by using beams of intense energy to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can’t heal damage caused by radiation. Radiation therapy can be used alone or along with other treatments like surgery or chemotherapy.
Targeted therapy is a new type of treatment that uses medicines to directly target cancer cells. This treatment can isolate and change specific behaviors within cancer cells, like stopping their growth, killing cancer cells or blocking chemical signals within the cells. Because targeted therapy attacks cancer cells, it does less damage to normal, healthy cells than chemotherapy. It’s often used with other treatments for the best results.
This relatively new treatment, sometimes called biotherapy, uses drugs that kick-start your body’s natural immune response to cancer. There are different types of immunotherapy treatments, some that give your immune system an overall boost and some that help your immune system specifically target cancer cells. It’s often used alongside other treatments.
Hormones in the bloodstream, like estrogen, can affect some types of breast cancer. Hormone therapy is a type of treatment that stops hormones from interacting with cancer cells, which can slow or stop the growth of cancer. Hormone therapy is often used after surgery to reduce the risk of cancer returning and can be used alongside other treatment options.
During your cancer treatment, we help make sure that you and your family feel as comfortable and supported as possible. To do this, we offer a wide range of services as part of personalized treatment plans, including:
Integrative therapies are supporting treatments some people choose to have in addition to their cancer treatments. They’re used to reduce the side effects of cancer treatments and improve your overall emotional and spiritual well-being. Common types of integrative therapies include massage, healing touch, reflexology, music therapy and acupuncture.
Palliative care helps improve the quality of life for people with advanced stages of cancer. Palliative care works alongside medical care to keep you comfortable and provide additional support. Our specialized palliative care team works closely with our oncology department so the support you need during your illness is easily accessible. Our palliative care team will help you understand your treatments, do daily activities, coordinate communication with your doctor and can perform other services to help support you and your family.
Good nutrition is needed to support the increased demands on your body while you heal. The benefits include preserving muscle mass, a healthy immune system, fewer complications and a better quality of life. We’ll recommend different nutrition guidelines to you depending on your type of cancer, stage of cancer or treatment plan. Our registered nutritionists can provide nutrition counseling to help with managing weight changes, dealing with side effects of treatment and navigating nutrition recommendations.
Cancer develops by chance, but people with a family history of cancer might be at a higher risk. It’s possible to have a gene mutation that can be passed from generation to generation. A genetic counselor can meet with you to go over your personal or family history of cancer and help you understand your hereditary risks. If you have questions about genetic counseling or want to know if genetic counseling is right for you, please ask your care team.
Cancer can change the way your body functions. What used to be easy might become more difficult because of fatigue, joint pain, stiffness, weakness, numbing or swelling. Some people might even develop difficulty thinking, balancing, speaking or swallowing. Cancer rehabilitation is a type of treatment that helps you improve your function and ability to do daily activities. We’ll recommend the best treatments for you, which may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and others.
We provide a specialty pharmacy that’s staffed by pharmacists who are experts in cancer medications. Because our pharmacy is fully integrated with our cancer treatment centers, our pharmacists are able to work closely with your treatment team. This helps to make sure you get the special medications you need to treat and manage cancer. Our team will help you understand the cost of your medication and help you with your insurance.
The Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC) has recognized us as a specialty pharmacy with a Distinction in Oncology.
Home care is when doctor-led care is provided in the comfort of your home. The goal is to manage your condition, keep you comfortable and ensure you can safely live in your home. Our team of doctors, nurses and aides will work with you to develop a care plan that meets your needs. If you think home care is the best option for you or your family member, please talk to a member of your care team. We’ll answer your questions and guide you to helpful resources.
Hospice is a type of individualized care provided to patients. The goal of hospice care is to relieve pain and help a patient’s final days be as comfortable and meaningful as possible. Hospice care doesn’t happen in a specific place. Instead, we can provide hospice care wherever you and your family feel most comfortable, including at home, in an assisted living facility, in a hospital or in a residential hospice facility. We’ll work with you to develop a care plan that helps with your medical needs along with the emotional and spiritual needs of you and your family.
If you’ve been referred to an oncologist, please choose a doctor or location and call to schedule an appointment.
It’s possible for anyone to develop breast cancer. However, some people are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer:
- Age – most breast cancers occur in women age 50 and older
- Family history – if you, your parent, a sibling or a child has had breast cancer, you are at greater risk
- An earlier breast biopsy that was not cancer but showed cells that were not normal
- Radiation treatment to the chest for another cancer as a teenager or young adult
- Menstruation starting before age 12
- Not having children
- Age 30 or older when you gave birth to your first child
- Having dense breasts
- Menopause after age 55
- Use of birth control pills
- Use of hormone therapy after menopause
Many different board-certified doctors, nurses, technologists and other medical professionals will work with you to make sure you’re getting the care you need during every step of your journey. After a breast cancer diagnosis, we’ll connect you with a nurse navigator, a nurse who specializes in coordinating patient care, so you have help scheduling your appointments and managing your treatments as well as continued support throughout the treatment process.
Depending on your treatment plan, you might work with:
- Medical oncologist – A doctor who specializes in treating cancer with medications and chemotherapy.
- Radiation oncologist – A doctor who specializes in using radiation therapy to treat cancer.
- Breast surgeon – A surgeon who specializes in removing lumps and cancerous tissue from breasts.
- Plastic surgeon – A surgeon who specializes in reconstructing breasts after cancer treatment.
- Radiologist – A doctor who specializes in reading X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and other imaging tests.
- Nurse navigator – A nurse who specializes in coordinating care, helping patients and families make informed decisions.
- Oncology nurses – Our nurses help you with your treatments, managing side effects and therapies.
Yes, many of our patients are able to participate in clinical trials if they meet the requirements. Take a look at our current clinical trials and learn more about our ongoing cancer research.
We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.
Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.
Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started:
- HealthPartners: 800-883-2177
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota: 800-382-2000
- CIGNA: 800-244-6224 (insurance through work); 866-494-2111 (insurance directly or through the Exchange)
- Medica: 800-952-3455
- Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
- PreferredOne: 763-847-4477 (in the Twin Cities); 800-997-1750 (outside the metro area)
- United Healthcare: 877-842-3210