Treatment

Our Approach

You probably know a woman who’s been impacted by breast cancer. If you were recently diagnosed yourself, you may be expecting to receive the same treatments that she did. You may even be anticipating the same treatment side effects.

But breast cancer is a highly complex disease, with many different types and subtypes. At Siteman Cancer Center, our Washington University Physicians understand that no two breast cancer cases are alike. They provide advanced, specialized care that cannot be matched in the St. Louis region.

Hear from patients who have been treated for breast cancer at Siteman.

The Siteman difference

Siteman Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Missouri. U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks us among the top cancer centers in the nation.

As a Siteman patient, you will receive a personalized treatment plan tailored to your genomics. Our researchers were the first in the world to break a cancer patient’s genetic code. Today, we look to your genes and the make-up of your tumor to find important clues to your disease.

Read on to learn more about what makes Siteman different from other facilities.

Expert physicians and surgeons

The breast cancer team at Siteman is made up of Washington University Physicians who focus on cancers of the breast. Together, they see over one thousand new breast cancer patients a year. The high volume of patients means that our physicians have more experience than most community practitioners.

Our breast cancer physicians practice at The Joanne Knight Breast Health Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. This facility brings together expert physicians, skilled support staff, and the latest technology to ensure that patients receive comprehensive care. In addition, many of our doctors and surgeons also see patients at our satellite facilities.

Safer, precision radiation

Many patients with breast cancer are given radiation therapy. Patients who come to Siteman are treated on state-of-the-art tools that keep the radiation beam focused on the tumor. In addition, our radiation oncologists use a variety of methods to protect their patients during the delivery of radiation.

Vaccines and immunotherapy

Researchers at Siteman are searching for new ways to use the body’s immune system to fight cancer.  One study taking place at Siteman and two other centers is testing a special vaccine that could slow the progress of metastatic breast cancer cells, which are cancer cells that have spread around the body. Now in clinical trials, this vaccine may be given to breast cancer patients in the future to prevent their cancer from spreading or recurring.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are a crucial part of breast cancer care at Siteman. These studies investigate new surgical procedures, radiation techniques, chemotherapy regimens, immunotherapies, targeted therapies (including vaccines), and lifestyle factors in women and men with breast cancer.

Siteman conducts more clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, with around 350 studies currently underway. Several new drugs that have emerged from our clinical studies have had a promising impact on metastatic breast cancer.

Sophisticated surgical techniques

Patients with breast cancer might assume that they will need to undergo a full mastectomy, or an operation to remove the cancerous breast. Surgeons at Siteman, however, are skilled at leading-edge procedures that conserve as much of the breast tissue as possible. If a mastectomy is necessary, it can be performed in such a way as to optimize the patient’s chances for a successful reconstruction.

Reconstructive surgeries

Some patients who undergo surgery for breast cancer wish to have their breast or breasts reconstructed. At Siteman, plastic and reconstructive surgeons are key members of the breast cancer team. These surgeons work closely with cancer surgeons to produce exceptional cosmetic results. They can perform every available reconstruction procedure, which means that patients will receive the best option for them.

Genetic counseling and testing

If you have a strong history of breast cancer in your family, your physicians may recommend that you undergo genetic testing to determine whether your cancer was caused by an inherited mutation, such as a mutation in the BRCA gene. Red flags for possible hereditary cancers include a family history of certain types of cancer, early-age onset of a particular cancer, multiple family members with the same cancer, or multiple types of cancer within the same person.

Genetic testing could help your doctors make better decisions about your care. Individuals with BRCA mutations, for instance, are more likely to develop cancer at younger ages or to have cancer in both breasts. The results from your test could also benefit family members who may not be aware of their cancer risks.

Hair loss prevention

Siteman can now help patients keep their hair during chemotherapy with scalp cooling, an innovative technology that protects the hair follicles. This technique has allowed thousands of patients from all over the world to feel more comfortable and confident as they undergo treatment for cancer. Because the chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer are more likely to cause hair loss, breast cancer patients especially stand to benefit from scalp cooling.

Learn more about scalp cooling at Siteman Cancer Center. We offer this treatment on our main campus in the Central West End, as well as at our West County and South County facilities.

Personal support

At Siteman, we understand that excellent cancer care takes a personal touch. Our experienced nurses are specially trained to support cancer patients and will help you cope with your symptoms, treatments, and side effects. We have registered dieticians on staff who can provide guidance about nutrition, suggesting ideas for meals and snacks that will taste good as you move through your treatment plan. In addition, patients and family members who desire mental health care can receive free treatment from our team of skilled cancer psychologists.

Patients who come to the Joanne Knight Breast Health Center also benefit from the assistance of nurse navigators, who are available to answer questions at any point.

As a unique feature of your care, we offer the services of a palliative care specialist who can help you manage pain and other side effects of your treatments.