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Breast Cancer: A journey of innovation

Breast cancer continues to be one of the most common cancers in women and maintains a high profile both in the media and in women’s minds. While it is certainly a scary diagnosis, it is exciting how much progress has been made in the treatment of breast cancer in recent years.

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).

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.

By the early 2000s, the traditional axillary dissection (removal of about two-thirds of the lymph nodes in the armpit) was replaced by sentinal 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).

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.

The Affinity Medical Group general surgeons are always at the forefront of breast cancer surgery. We provide carefully coordinated care with medical and radiation oncologists and plastic surgeons. We were the first in the Fox Valley to offer image-guided stereotactic needle biopsies and sentinal lymph node biopsies. We are the only center in the Valley offering balloon brachytherapy.

At the Affinity Breast Center and cancer programs, we have a passion for breast cancer care, and we encourage women to come in and let us provide them with our top-notch service.

About Dr. Deidre Flanagan

Dr. Flanagan provides comprehensive general surgical services with special interest in advanced laparoscopic and endocrine, anti-reflux and breast surgery.

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