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Breast cancer

Breast cancer is most common in women, but can also affect men. Often, it's detected after finding a lump in the breast or a noticeable change in the size, shape or skin of the breast. Mammograms are crucial for diagnosis, early detection and more effective treatments.

Dedicated breast cancer care

Our breast cancer specialists will guide you through uncertainty and a treatment plan.

Mission Health hospitals offer superb, compassionate breast cancer diagnostics and treatments. With a hopeful, healing approach, our oncologists and nurse navigators will help you understand your care options, while supporting you and your family.

Breast cancer symptoms

Breast cancer can cause various symptoms, some of which occur in the underarm and breast. Common symptoms include:

  • Bloody nipple discharge
  • Change in breast shape or size
  • Painless lump or thickening
  • Retracted nipple
  • Scaly skin around the nipple
  • Skin dimpling

Our breast cancer program

Offering high-quality care is our top priority. We seek to provide advanced medical and surgical treatments in a compassionate, supportive environment that focuses on your unique health needs.

Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in one or both breasts. These expanding cells may invade nearby tissues and form a mass, called a malignant tumor, and spread (metastasize) to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. Breast cancer that begins in the ducts of the breast is called ductal carcinoma, and is the most common type of breast cancer. It may also begin in the lobes of the breast, called lobular carcinoma, or be a mix of both types.

Breast cancer risk factors

While it is impossible to identify a specific cause for any particular breast cancer, certain factors may increase your risk. Because of this, it is crucial to discuss your individual risk factors with your doctor and receive regular screenings based on them.

Breast cancer risk factors include:

  • Aging
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Certain genes, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Having dense breasts
  • Menopause after age 55
  • Not breastfeeding

Breast cancer diagnostic services

If you have an abnormal mammogram, you may need a biopsy. If it is ultimately determined that you have breast cancer, a personalized treatment plan will be completed in order to best guide your treatment. This plan may warrant additional testing, including:

  • Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Chemistry screen
  • Chest X-ray
  • Complete blood count
  • Genetic testing
  • More mammograms

Even if you show no signs of breast cancer, we recommend regular screenings so that if problems arise, we can catch them early when they are most treatable. The board-certified radiologists in our breast imaging program have focused expertise, ensuring accurate diagnosis and precise treatment. We offer convenient locations throughout Western North Carolina, ensuring you have access to mammography, ultrasound and MRI services.

High-risk breast cancer clinic

Our high-risk clinic is a specialized program dedicated to identifying women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. We initiate timely screenings to identify abnormalities as early as possible and develop personalized strategies to reduce your risk.

Our services and treatments for breast cancer

Breast cancer treatment continues to evolve more rapidly than ever, emphasizing the need for a combination of targeted therapies that meet your needs. We deliver collaborative treatment, bringing together surgical, medical and radiation oncologists with specialized expertise in treating breast cancer. Whether you need single, dual or a combination of all three therapies, you can be confident that you are receiving the highest level of breast care.

Breast program nurse navigators

Our dedicated nurse navigators provide personalized support and advocacy throughout your cancer journey. Beginning at your diagnosis, they offer education, coordination of care, resources and emotional support that lasts throughout treatment and survivorship.

Breast cancer surgery

Breast surgery may be recommended to remove the cancer or, in some cases, the entire affected breast. With both procedures, some or all of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed, depending on whether and how the cancer may have spread.

Our surgeons are dedicated to the management of benign and malignant breast problems. The main surgical procedures we offer include:

  • Lumpectomy — A breast-conserving surgery used if the size of the cancer is small enough and the cancer is confined to one area of the breast.
  • Mastectomy — A procedure in which the whole breast is removed.

Whenever possible, our breast surgeons offer the hidden scar approach for lumpectomies. During this procedure, your surgeon may hide the incision around the nipple-areolar, or in the crease of your armpit, so your scar will not be visible. We also offer skin-sparing and nipple-sparing mastectomies. Working alongside plastic surgeons, our surgeons can reconstruct the breast during the mastectomy at a later time when medically necessary.


Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Sometimes used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy, our expert medical oncologists will diligently assess your specific situation to determine a proper combination of therapies to improve your condition.

Hormone therapy

This treatment is used to change the way hormones cause cancer to grow. Hormone therapy is typically used when tests show that the cancer cells have hormone receptors that cause cancer to grow. It may be used to help stop or slow cancer growth.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. The physicians in our radiation oncology program specialize by tumor type and use the latest technologies and treatments, including focused ultrasound. Your radiologist will coordinate care with your surgeon, medical oncologist, navigator and primary care physician to ensure precise and accurate treatment.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a treatment that uses drugs to attack specific areas or processes of cancer cells. It may be used alone, but is most often combined with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Targeted therapy only affects cancer cells, not the other cells in the body, and can stop them from growing or spreading by blocking cell signals.

Breast reconstruction surgery

Breast reconstruction can be helpful with managing your emotions around losing one or both breasts. Our plastic surgeons create a natural-looking breast to give you a sense of wholeness after a mastectomy. While reconstruction cannot completely erase the original loss, it can alleviate some of your grief and put you on a path towards emotional and physical healing.

There are additional benefits of breast reconstruction, including that it only requires one visit to the operating room. By having our board-certified plastic surgeon and fellowship-trained breast surgeon onsite during the procedure, the recovery time can be significantly shorter.

Check for breast cancer with mammograms

Mammograms can help detect breast cancer and allow for early treatment. Screening mammograms are the best tool if someone in your family history has had breast cancer. It's important to schedule one at 40 and yearly after that.

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