Our approach to breast cancer care
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women after skin cancer. At MaineHealth, our cancer specialists offer comprehensive breast cancer services that include early detection, diagnostic imaging, and personalized treatment. Breast cancer occurs when abnormal (cancer) cells form in the breast. A family history and other factors may increase the risk of breast cancer.
MaineHealth Cancer Care Network specialists offer comprehensive breast cancer services that include early detection, diagnostic imaging, and personalized treatment. The list below shows which doctors may be involved in your breast cancer care.
- Medical Oncologists treat cancer using medicine (chemotherapy, targeted therapy, biotherapy, and/or immunotherapy) rather than radiation.
- Breast Surgeons focus on the surgical management of cancer.
- Radiation Oncologists use high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue.
- Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeons provide breast reconstruction for patients who've had surgery as part of breast cancer treatment. Before undergoing mastectomy or other surgical treatment, patients can explore options for immediate or delayed reconstructive breast surgery.
- Cancer Patient Navigators make sure you and your family have everything you need to make informed and timely decisions about your treatment.
Patient navigators can help
Patient navigators partner with you on your journey toward recovery by providing the help and resources you need.
Breast changes may be signs of breast cancer
A lump or change in the breast may be a symptom of breast cancer.
Others symptoms can include:
- Swelling in all or part of the breast
- Skin dimpling on the breast
- Skin irritation on the breast
- Nipple turning inward
- Changes in the nipple or breast skin that can include redness, scaling, thickening
- Fluid (not breast milk) leaking from the nipple
Check with your provider about when to schedule a mammogram
Patients are encouraged to do regular breast self-exams to check for lumps, changes in breast size or shape, or any other changes in the breasts or underarm (armpit).
Clinical screening often includes a clinical breast exam as part of a woman's regular checkup. Women also are encouraged to have regular mammograms, and should talk to their provider about when to schedule one.
Depending on the results, your local healthcare provider may refer you to a breast cancer specialist.
Breast cancer treatment options vary depending on the cancer
Treatment for breast cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer. Complementary and integrative therapies, while not primary treatment options can be discussed with our providers. Common treatments for breast cancer include:
Getting a second opinion is not uncommon in cancer care. At MaineHealth, we know how important it is to be confident in your breast cancer care approach and treatment. We want to make every effort to facilitate a second opinion, whenever the patient – and in many situations, the provider – wants to seek a second opinion. This is important to us, and our focus on patient-centered care.
What is a second opinion?
A second opinion is when a patient or physician seeks another physician specialist’s review of a patient’s diagnosis or recommended treatment. It is common in cancer, especially if a patient has an unusually complicated condition or rare form of the disease.
When you choose to obtain a second opinion, your physician forwards test results such as radiology images, blood work and pathology slides. The physician may recommend another physician specializing in that cancer, or the patient may find a specialist through a primary care physician, online research or a relative or friend’s recommendation.
To confirm that insurance will cover the cost of second opinion visits, it is recommended that you verify by contacting your insurance company directly.
Preparing for your visit
Like all visits for cancer care, when you are getting a second opinion, it’s helpful to write down your questions in advance and take notes during the conversation. Physicians often recommend that you bring someone with you to help you recall the discussion later. It can be difficult to process what you’re hearing especially if you’re scared or anxious about your condition.
Physicians also may seek another physician’s opinion either on a one-on-one basis, or by asking a multidisciplinary group of cancer specialists to review and weigh in on a patient’s diagnosis or treatment. This team of specialists includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists, as well pathologists, pharmacists and patient navigators. They meet regularly to review patients’ cases.
Where to go for a second opinion?
MaineHealth has sites where patients and their physicians may obtain second opinions. Each site includes breast cancer experts who have advanced training and experience.