What to Expect
Your first visit
Your first visit to the breast center may take as long as four or five hours. You may see doctors from surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, or reconstructive surgery. You may also have tests and see nurses, a patient counselor, a cancer geneticist, or a financial counselor.
Please bring the following to your clinic appointment:
- physician's name, address and phone number.
- patient identification card if you have been seen before at UNC
- insurance card and any other related forms required by your insurance company
- list of allergies and medications you are taking with the dosages.
Your treatment plan
Your physician will work with other team members to personally manage your care and will meet with you to discuss the treatment plan developed by the team.
Treatment options may include:
- The opportunity to participate in a clinical research trial
- Surgery: the date may be set, and you will be taught what to expect.
- Chemotherapy: You will be taught what to expect and how to manage care at home.
- Radiation treatment: The treatment, procedures and side effects will be explained. You may be scheduled for simulation, which uses x-ray images to precisely locate and mark the target treatment area. After simulation, a radiation therapist will give you the date and time when treatment will begin.
The managing physician, nurse navigator and nurse practitioners will follow you through all of your care at UNC, especially if you need to see multiple cancer specialists and receive different types of treatment.
Diagnostic Procedures and Treatment Information:
We offer the full range of diagnostic and screening services and have multiple clinical research studies available to patients.
Clinical imaging services include screening mammography, problem-solving film and digital mammography, breast sonography, and breast MRI. Interventional procedures offered include cyst aspiration, ultrasound and stereotactically-guided core biopsy, lymphoscintigraphy injections, and needle localization to guide surgical biopsy of the breast.
For more information visit UNC's Breast Imaging website.
- Surgical Oncology
Breast Surgery: Our surgical oncologists strive for breast conservation whenever possible. In collaboration with the program's medical oncologists, chemotherapy before surgery (neo-adjuvant chemotherapy) may be recommended to increase the likelihood of saving the breast. If mastectomy is required or desired, a referral for reconstructive surgery can be coordinated.
Innovations: Our surgeons are committed to bringing the most modern techniques and advances to our patients. View surgical oncology website.
- Plastic Surgery.
For a woman having a mastectomy (removal of the breast), the UNC breast center offers reconstruction options. The breast surgical oncologist (cancer surgeon) and the plastic surgeon work closely together to coordinate care for patients desiring reconstruction. Reconstruction may be done using synthetic implants or the patient’s own tissue taken from other parts of the body (such as the back or abdomen).
Women who think they might want reconstruction should ask about this option as soon as they are diagnosed with breast cancer. Reconstruction is not for everyone. Each patient and her surgeons will look at her age, health, anatomy, tissues and personal goals before making a decision.
Appointments for reconstructive surgery require a referral from a doctor. The UNC Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery does not see self-referred patients.
For more information, call the UNC Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at 919-966-4446 or visit the division's website at: http://www.med.unc.edu/plastic.
- Radiation Therapy
UNC has long been a leader in developing techniques to ensure complete treatment of the breast while sparing normal tissues.
UNC pioneered computer-based 3-dimensional treatment planning, which allows tailoring of treatment fields and radiation dose to individual needs. 3-dimensional treatment planning allows us to use intensity modulation and electrons where applicable, improving dose delivery and sparing healthy tissue.
- Medical Oncology
Medical oncologists at the UNC Breast Center will help guide a woman through her treatment options to maximize the chance of curing her cancer.
With their surgical oncology and radiation oncology colleagues, thoughtful discussion of the best overall treatment plan is accomplished in the weekly multidisciplinary conference.
Both men and women with nonmetastatic (local cancer only) and metastatic (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body) cancer can benefit from treatments to cure or control disease. Our medical oncologists have the benefit of conventional therapies as well as investigational drugs and exciting new approaches.
Innovations: The UNC Breast Center is a leader in the development of new strategies for breast cancer. Our clinical trials program offers many options for patients who meet study criteria. View clinical trials website.