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Medical Oncology for Breast Cancer at UPMC in Central Pa.

Anti-cancer medications are used to slow or stop the growth of certain types of breast cancer. These may be part of your breast cancer treatment plan. Chemotherapy is one example. Newer medical therapies may also be used.

The UPMC Pinnacle Breast Care Center team considers all factors when planning the right medical therapy for your breast cancer. These factors include the type and stage of your cancer, your treatment goals and your overall health.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a powerful tool in the treatment of breast cancer. It can be given before or after breast cancer surgery. It is also used to treat breast cancer that has recurred or spread. Chemotherapy is typically delivered intravenously (IV). This is done using a temporary port implanted under the skin. Certain types of chemotherapy are available in a pill.

Your medical oncologist will look at several things when planning your chemotherapy treatment. This will include the type of breast cancer you have, the stage of your cancer and other medical problems you may have. The type of chemotherapy will determine how often you receive treatment. Some drugs are given daily for a week or two. Some are given weekly. Others are given only once every two or three weeks.

Chemotherapy treatment can have side effects. The type and severity of these side effects varies depending upon which chemotherapy drug(s) you are given and how your body reacts. Chemotherapy can affect the hair follicles, bone marrow, intestinal lining and cells of your mouth. Common side effects are hair loss, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, easy bruising and increased chance of infection.

Other side effects can include nerve damage, osteoporosis, infertility and premature menopause. Chemotherapy may cause a temporary condition called “chemo brain.” This makes people feel as though they aren’t thinking as clearly as they would normally. Chemotherapy can also cause damage to other organs such as the heart.

Recent advancements in medical oncology make it easier to manage side effects with medication or other treatments. UPMC Pinnacle Breast Care Center offers many supportive services. These can help you prepare for and manage side effects from chemotherapy.

Other Medical Therapies

Advances in breast cancer research have led to new types of medical therapies. These include endocrine therapy and targeted therapy.

Endocrine Therapy

Endocrine therapy slows or stops the growth of breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones. It blocks the body’s ability to produce hormones or interferes with hormone action. Endocrine therapy is also called hormone therapy.

Hormones occur in the body naturally. Ovaries in premenopausal women make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Other tissues in both pre- and postmenopausal women make these hormones too. Hormones play an important role in the body. This includes development and maintenance of female sex characteristics. Hormones play a role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Unfortunately, estrogen and progesterone can also help certain breast cancers grow. These are known as hormone-sensitive or hormone dependent breast cancers.

Your doctor will determine if you have a hormone-sensitive breast cancer. A biopsy is used to take a tissue sample. A pathologist will study the sample. He or she will look for certain proteins called hormone receptors. These proteins are activated when estrogen binds with them. You have estrogen-sensitive breast cancer if these proteins are found. Around 70 percent of breast cancers are estrogen-receptor positive.

Some proteins bind with progesterone. That is called progesterone-sensitive breast cancer. Most estrogen-receptive breast cancers are also progesterone-receptor positive.

The biopsy sample may not have estrogen or progesterone receptors. The tumor is then estrogen or progesterone receptor-negative. Hormone therapy is not used in these cases.

The side effects of hormone therapy vary. They can depend on the drug used or the person. Bone pain, joint pain, bone thinning, osteoporosis, nausea and vomiting, hot flashes, fatigue, headaches and dry skin are common complaints.

UPMC Pinnacle Breast Care Center offers many supportive services. These can help you prepare for and manage side effects from endocrine therapy.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies are medications. They target specific characteristics of cancer cells. These therapies stop or slow the cancer’s growth. A therapy can target a certain cancer protein for example. Some targeted therapies work like antibodies that are natural to your immune system. They are called immunotherapies.

Targeted therapy is different than chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can harm cells that aren’t cancer. Targeted therapies are less likely to harm normal and healthy cells. Targeted therapies can be given on their own or they may be used with chemotherapy for maximum impact. Treatment depends on the type of cancer.

The side effects of targeted therapies vary and depends on the agent. Your Breast Medical Oncologist will decide if you are a candidate for targeted therapy and will explained details of potential side effects to you.

UPMC Pinnacle Breast Care Center offers many supportive services. These can help you prepare for and manage the side effects from targeted treatment.

Providers

Need more information?

Phone: 717-545-5000

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Locations

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the Rocco and Nancy Ortenzio Cancer Pavilion
Located at UPMC West Shore Campus
2035 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the Rocco and Nancy Ortenzio Cancer Pavilion
2035 Technology Parkway
Suite 200
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Phone: 717-988-1450
Fax: 717-221-5544

PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at Medical Sciences Pavilion
4300 Londonderry Road
Suite 202
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Phone: 717-545-5000
Fax: 717-545-5002

PinnacleHealth Hematology/Oncology
Located at Medical Sciences Pavilion
4300 Londonderry Road
Suite 302
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Phone: 717-724-6780
Fax: 717-724-6781

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
Located at Medical Sciences Pavilion
4300 Londonderry Road
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Phone: 717-657-7500

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
Located at Outpatient Services at UPMC Memorial
1703 Innovation Drive
York, PA 17408

Hematology/Oncology: 717-801-0765
Radiation Oncology: 717-801-0742

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