A breast cancer diagnosis can be life-changing. At RUSH you’ll find services and staff to care for and support you at each stage of breast cancer treatment.
Among the Best in the U.S. for Cancer Care
U.S. News & World Report ranked RUSH University Medical Center among the best in the nation for cancer care.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis at RUSH
If you suspect you may have breast cancer, RUSH can help you get a mammogram quickly.
RUSH Breast Imaging Services are available at multiple locations across the Rush System: in Chicago (South Loop, Lakeview and our downtown campus), Oak Park, Oak Brook and Aurora/Fox Valley.
Our breast imaging experts can identify potential breast cancer at early stages; they work with Rush pathologists and other breast cancer specialists to confirm a breast cancer diagnosis.
Some of the diagnostic tests your doctor may order include:
- Blood tests, such as complete blood count
- Mammogram or 3D Mammogram (Tomosynthesis) of one or both breasts
- Ultrasound or Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS)
- Breast biopsy
- Breast MRI or Fast Breast MRI
- CEM Mammography
Your diagnosis will include whether your cancer is linked to the HER2 gene. Whether you are HER2 positive or negative will affect your treatment.
The RUSH Approach to Breast Cancer Treatment
At RUSH, we know every woman’s breast cancer experience is unique. That's why our breast cancer specialists start by getting to know you — getting a full picture of your overall health, family history, lifestyle and health needs.
Some patients may be seen in our comprehensive breast cancer treatment clinic in downtown Chicago. At our comprehensive clinic, you may ask questions and explore your treatment options with an entire team.
You may also choose to split your treatment across the Rush System, with chemotherapy in Lisle or Aurora/Fox Valley, for example, to be closer to home. We work with you to find the best fit for treatment.
Your team will walk you through the risks and benefits of treatments, which may include breast surgery (mastectomy, lumpectomy), chemotherapy, radiation therapy or breast reconstruction. At RUSH you'll also have access to advanced treatments like targeted therapies and clinical trials looking at new ways to treat breast cancer.
You will also have a patient navigator who will help you through every step of your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Your navigator will help you coordinate your appointments, answer your questions and connect you with resources you may need.
- A nurse navigator can help you learn as much you want to know about breast cancer. We know some of our patients want to know as much as possible, while others prefer to take it one step at a time.
- Their goal is to help you feel better prepared to explore your treatment options — in whatever ways you want that information.
- They will also work with you and your breast cancer providers to ensure you can seamlessly access care across Rush.
- Once you have completed treatment, they work with you to create a breast cancer survivor plan.
Non-surgical Breast Cancer Treatments
Many types of breast cancer treatments are available, and some can be performed without invasive surgery. However, you must discuss these options with your breast cancer physician. Non-surgical breast cancer treatments may also be used together with surgical treatments. Your RUSH physician can provide you with the best options available to you and help you decide if you can successfully treat breast cancer without surgery or whether a combination of therapies will be most effective.
Rush medical oncologists provide breast cancer chemo and other medical therapies in Chicago, Lisle, Oak Park and Aurora/Fox Valley.
Your care team will determine your plan based on your specific type of breast cancer, its stage and your overall health, among other factors. It may include some of the following:
- Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
- Cold cap for chemo (also known as cooling caps) can be used at Rush University Medical Center during chemo to help you keep your hair
- Hormone therapy uses drugs like tamoxifen (which block cancer cells from using your hormones to grow) and aromatase inhibitors (which reduce the hormone production in your body)
- Biologic therapy uses drugs like Herceptin (trastuzumab) that directly target the cancer cells to help your body fight cancer
Breast Radiation Therapy
Rush offers a variety of types of radiation therapy at multiple locations, including Chicago, Oak Park and Aurora/Fox Valley.
Techniques and therapies include the following:
- Prone breast irradiation: You lie on your stomach so that your heart and lungs are less exposed to radiation during treatment.
- Accelerated breast irradiation: This type of whole breast irradiation cuts treatment time in half and gives the same benefits. Accelerated partial breast irradiation can help preserve the breast in early-stage cancer.
- Deep inspiration breath hold: This technique helps minimize the amount of radiation exposure to your heart — while not affecting the amount delivered to the tumor — during treatment for cancer in the left breast.
- Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT): Radiation is delivered during surgery to avoid weeks of radiation therapy following surgery.
- Brachytherapy: High-dose brachytherapy (a form of internal radiation therapy), which can significantly shorten radiation treatment.
After treatment, you may be referred to a Rush occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can help you do the following:
- Address lymphedema and other side effects from treatment
- Overcome difficulties performing everyday tasks caused by reduced arm strength from treatment
Genetic Testing and Counseling
Rush offers genetic testing and counseling for people with a family history of breast cancer.
- If you are from a high-risk family, testing may help you find out if you carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 or another genetic mutation that increases your breast cancer risk.
Rush offers a variety of support services to help your emotional and physical well-being during treatment. These include the following:
- Nutritional support
- Financial counseling
- Social workers and psychologists
- Therapeutic memberships at Rush Copley Healthplex
- Yoga, massage, acupuncture and other complementary therapies
- Wellness resources at Waterford Place Cancer Resource Center in Aurora
Surgical Breast Cancer Treatments
While surgery is considered the primary breast cancer treatment, breast cancer is unique compared to other surgically treated cancers because there are more surgical options for breast cancer. These can range from double mastectomy, or complete removal of both breasts, to less invasive surgeries like lumpectomy, or direct removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue. Your doctors will educate you about your options for treatment and surgical breast reconstruction if necessary. You will work together to make a shared decision about the best surgical option for you. Making that decision with confidence starts with knowing what you're up against and using that knowledge to make the best choice for yourself.
Breast Cancer Surgery
Surgical oncologists perform breast cancer surgery at downtown Chicago and Aurora/Fox Valley.
- Mastectomy: Rush offers a variety of types of mastectomy (surgery to remove one or both breasts), including nipple-sparing mastectomy and skin-sparing mastectomy.
- Lumpectomy: Rush offers lumpectomy surgery to remove a breast tumor and some of the normal tissue around it.
- Marking tumors before surgery: Rush University Medical Center and Rush Copley Medical Center offer magnetic seed localization to mark breast tumors before lumpectomy. Magnetic seed localization addresses many of the complications that wire localization presents, such as discomfort.
Your breast surgeon will discuss your breast reconstruction options with you before your breast cancer surgery. Your surgeon will also connect you to a Rush plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction.
Reconstruction after mastectomy is available in two ways:
- Breast reconstruction at the same time as your mastectomy
- Delayed breast reconstruction, in which your reconstruction may take place after your mastectomy
RUSH Excellence in Breast Cancer Care
- Multiple specialists, one appointment: You may receive care through The Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Breast Cancer Clinic at RUSH University Medical Center. In this clinic, you’ll meet with your breast cancer care team — which may include your medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic and reconstructive surgeon and nurse coordinator — together in a single visit.
- Reducing chemotherapy-related hair loss: If you need chemotherapy for breast cancer, you may have access to innovative scalp cooling technology that combats hair loss from treatment. Studies have found that patients who used the scalp cooling cap were able to keep the majority of their hair during treatment.
- Supportive oncology care: At RUSH University Medical Center and RUSH Copley Medical Center you'll have access to supportive care services to help you through treatment. This includes acupuncture, massage, yoga, psychosocial counseling, lymphedema management, nutritional counseling, financial counseling and more. Waterford Place Resource Center in Aurora offers a wide range of services free of charge to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer.
- Expert care close to you: We make it easy for you to get the breast cancer care you need close to home. Our breast cancer providers are available in a number of locations in Chicago and the suburbs. We also have infusion centers in Chicago, Oak Park, Lisle and Aurora.
- Advanced breast reconstruction options: Our specially trained plastic and reconstructive surgeons work hand-in-hand with our breast surgeons to give you the most advanced options including lumpectomy (breast conserving surgery), mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
- Supporting your continued health after treatment: In addition to support services available during treatment, RUSH also offers services to alleviate side effects you may experience after treatment. This includes a new vaginal laser treatment called MonaLisa Touch, which can help with vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. Your care at Rush doesn’t stop at the end of treatment — we’re here to support you long-term.
Getting a Second Opinion on Breast Cancer
RUSH offers second opinions on breast imaging for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. Physicians will review exams from other medical facilities and may perform MRI to evaluate the extent of disease. Ask your RUSH physician about second opinion services for further details and recommendations. For more information and answers to FAQs about second opinions for cancer patients, read our Getting a Second Opinion on Cancer page.