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“I was thoroughly informed about what would happen every step of the way. The fact that the same doctor would be taking care of me from start to finish made me feel like I was being taken seriously.”

Surgical treatment

The tumour in the breast.
In most cases, surgery is the first possible therapy for the diagnosis of “breast cancer”. The objective is the complete removal of the tumour. For many decades, the complete removal of the breast (mastectomy) was the typical operation. However, this has changed fundamentally in the last 25 years. Today, the breast only has to be removed completely in a few cases; in about two thirds of the cases, breast-preserving surgery is possible. It is clear that a breast-preserving operation, especially when performed with modern oncoplastic techniques, produces significantly more attractive cosmetic results than a mastectomy. Today, we also know that the concept of breast-preserving therapy (which includes radiotherapy after the surgery) does not impose any restriction on the patient’s oncological safety.

However, in some cases, a mastectomy still needs to be recommended even nowadays. Among other factors, the size and location of the tumour, the size of the breast and of course the personal preferences of the patient are taken into account.

If the patient who has to undergo a mastectomy wants a reconstruction of the breast (either primary, i.e. directly with the mastectomy, or secondary, i.e. at a later date), the plastic-reconstructive-surgical surgeons at the Breast Centre can offer all internationally established reconstructive methods. These range from silicone prostheses to the reconstruction of the breast with autologous tissue.

Axillary lymph nodes
There has been a clear tendency towards less radical and aggressive breast surgeries in the last two decades and it even applies almost even more to surgery on axillary lymph nodes (lymph nodes in the armpit). These lymph nodes are important because in the dreaded spread of breast cancer the cells first metastasize there. For further therapy it is important to know whether axillary lymph nodes have metastases. Whereas in earlier years the lymphatic fatty tissue was completely removed in all cases of breast cancer, this is now only necessary in about 20 to 25 percent of cases. With the help of new techniques, individual representative lymph nodes, the so-called sentinel lymph nodes, can now be found intraoperatively and specifically removed. The significantly lower number of removed lymph nodes with the sentinel technique, usually only 1 to 2 lymph nodes are removed, leads to significantly fewer sequelae than the “classic” operation with about 10-20 removed lymph nodes; in particular, the previously feared lymphedema and limited sensitivity and mobility of the arm are practically no longer observed.

The customised treatment concept: Surgery before or after systemic therapy?
In selected cases with aggressive forms of breast cancer that will require chemotherapy in any case, the systemic therapy is started at the beginning of the treatment. In this so-called neoadjuvant concept, the surgery then follows the systemic pre-treatment. In most cases, chemotherapy succeeds in reducing the tumour spread in the breast and axilla so that a less extensive surgery can be done. For the patient, this usually means more favourable cosmetic results and fewer functional restrictions.
The coordinated interaction of the main forms of therapy for breast cancer (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation) into a therapy concept tailored to the individual patient requires close cooperation between the various medical disciplines. This is why at our Breast Centre, each case of a patient with breast cancer is discussed by an interdisciplinary tumour board. Surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists and radio-oncologists then formulate the therapy recommendation which, according to the current state of medical knowledge, offers the highest chance of recovery.

Surgery for benign lesions in the breast
In earlier times, benign changes or lesions of unclear malignant potential were dealt with through open surgery. Open surgery usually involves general anaesthesia, hospitalisation and a scar on and in the breast, several centimetres long. These days, with the diagnostic methods that are now available – especially targeted biopsies –lesions of unclear dignity can usually be reliably clarified. Benign tumours, such as fibroadenomas, can be removed up to a certain size with little effort using a vacuum-assisted biopsy. In this case, little effort is equivalent to an outpatient procedure under local anaesthesia and a few millimetres of scar on the skin. Larger surgeries for benign or unclear focal findings can thus usually be avoided.

Radiotherapy

Despite complete removal of a malignant breast tumour, follow-up radiation is often recommended. The reason for this is that microscopically small tumour cells may still be present, which remain hidden from the surgeon’s view and can lead to a disease relapse – either locally or somewhere else in the body. Certain preliminary stages of breast cancer (e.g. ductal carcinoma in situ – DCIS) can lead to a relapse in the breast, which is why radiotherapy is also frequently performed for DCIS. Even after removal of the breast, follow-up radiation is recommended, depending on the risk constellation.

Nowadays, radiotherapy is almost exclusively performed with a linear accelerator. Ionising rays (photons or electrons) are emitted, which interacts with the irradiated tissues, which can lead the death of cells. An advantage of the linear accelerator is that the dose rate is high and the irradiation times are correspondingly short. The so-called INTRABEAM® is available for possible intraoperative irradiation.

With careful planning and implementation, relevant side effects can usually be kept to a minimum. Acute side effects (e.g. reddening of the skin, surface skin lesions, swelling of the breast or fatigue) that occur during treatment and usually disappear completely, and late side effects that appear weeks or months after treatment has ended and may be permanent (e.g. skin changes or hardening of the breast). Side effects on ribs, lungs and heart are rare. In order to protect the lungs and especially the heart as much as possible, new technologies can be used to perform respiration-dependent radiation, i.e. radiation is only given, for example, when the patient breathes in. If the lymph node regions also need to be irradiated, there is a slightly increased risk of developing a swollen arm (arm lymphedema).

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a widespread medication-based treatment for cancer. In some patients with early-stage or advanced breast cancer, medications called cytostatics are used to inhibit the growth of the cancer cells or destroy them. Cytostatics damage the nucleus and other components of tumour cells and thus inhibit their uncontrolled proliferation. Chemotherapy may involve the use of a sinlge cytostatic or a combination of different cytostatics. Chemotherapy affects the entire body (systemically), which means that healthy cells (such as hair follicles or the intestinal mucosa) may also be affected. With careful planning and execution of the Chemotherapy, relevant side effects can usually well controlled. Furthermore, the vast majority of healthy cells will recover quickly after treatment ends. Chemotherapy can be administered by infusion into the blood vessels or in tablet form.

Immunotherapy (antibody therapy)

Antibody therapy works mainly through the power of the body’s own immune system. It is therefore fundamentally different from chemotherapy in terms of how it works. The principle of antibody therapy is based on the targeted detection of specific cancer cells. With this treatment, monoclonal antibodies interrupt the signalling pathways of the tumour cells and can eliminate them with the help of the immune system. Antibody therapy – in the case of breast cancer often involves the anti-HER2 medications trastuzumab and pertuzumab, is administered as an infusion to the blood vessels. Trastuzumab can now also be administered via subcutaneous injection.

Antihormonal (endocrine) therapy

About 80 per cent of all malignant breast tumours have receptors relating to the female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone), which means that the growth of cancer cells is controlled and enhanced by these hormones. Endocrine therapy exploits the hormone-dependent nature of these cancer cells by either blocking the hormone receptors (tamoxifen) or the production of the hormones that stimulate the cancer cells (using aromatase inhibitors). In this way, not only can the development of distant metastases be prevented, but the contralateral breast (non-cancerous) can also be prophylactically protected from tumour formation.

Endocrine therapy is usually done in the form of a tablet that is taken once a day. In younger pre-menopausal, an additional blocking of the ovaries is often performed with an injection at three-month intervals. As endocrine therapy also involves side effects such as hot flushes, bone, muscle and joint pain, one of the aims of our follow-up examinations is to alleviate concomitant symptoms of endocrine therapy with suitable measures and thus guide our patients throughout the treatment over several years.

Clinical Study Department of Breast Centre Zurich

The care of patients within the framework of clinical studies is an important aspect of quality at the breast centre.
Over the past decades, there has been significant progress in the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Most of the new insights come from studies that compare the best established therapies at the time with new ones that may be even better. The focus is always on women with breast cancer.

Cultural conditions and personal circumstances are always respected. A holistic treatment is always completely comprehensive, even in the event that participation in a study is disconnected.
The results of such studies usually only available after several years, so that the benefit for breast cancer patients is not immediately apparent. The patient’s personal study data is always encrypted for data protection.

The physicians at Breast Centre Zurich are always glad to provide information on which studies are suitable for which patients.

Clinical studies help to:

  • avoid unnecessary treatments;
  • obtain more precise information about doses and effects;
  • improve quality of life and measure the side effects of the treatment;
  • to examine additional studies for their value;
  • disseminate new knowledge across a global network of collaborating study groups;
  • extend lives while maintaining the quality of life.

Between 2007 and 2018, about 600 patients were involved in clinical studies at the Breast Centre Zurich.

I am interested in taking part in a clinical study

Studies currently under way at Breast Centre Zurich (German) (PDF)

Breast Care Nurse

A breast cancer diagnosis can cause a massive crisis in a woman’s life. She may alternate between phases of fear, denial, resignation and doubt. Some people need a special degree of qualified care during this time – and an open ear for their questions and concerns. At the Breast Centre, our Breast Care Nurses and the entire team support patients and relatives in partnership throughout all stages of the disease.

At the Zurich Breast Centre we employ qualified nurses who have additional training as Breast Care Nurses. These nurses specialise in accompanying, informing and advising women with breast diseases. As part of our interdisciplinary team, they look after our breast cancer patients with the following focal points:

  • personalised consultation after a variety of breast surgeries, inpatient at the clinic or outpatient at the Breast Centre;
  • continuous care and advice across all stages of the diagnosis and therapeutic treatment process, taking into account physical, psychological and social factors;
  • coordination of internal and external treatments to ensure the best possible treatment success;
  • care and advice not only around the disease and the healing process, but also on topics such as fears, changes in body image, beauty, sexuality, family, social problems and much more;
  • Assignment and schedulinh to competent cooperation partners for possible further care or treatment that may be required.

Contact us to arrange an appointment with our Breast Care Nurse by phone or e-mail.
+41 44 533 81 34 | info@brust-zentrum.ch

Breast Care Nurse brochure (German) (PDF)

Oncology care

The objective of the professional care provided by specialist oncology nurses is to treat, advise and care for people with cancer and their relatives during all stages of the disease in a responsible and targeted manner. About 85 percent of all tumour treatments are carried out on an outpatient basis.

At Breast Centre Zurich, our specialist nurses work very closely with medical oncologists and Breast Care Nurses. All specialist oncology nurses have further training in the field of oncology and many years of experience in oncology. This enables them to respond to the needs of patients and relatives in a holistic manner and to contribute to reducing the symptoms of the disease and/or undesirable effects of various tumour therapies. What does this mean for you:

  • Targeted information prior to treatment as part of the nursing consultation in order to prevent and treat the side effects of oncology therapies such as fatigue, oral mucositis, nausea and vomiting, skin changes, altered appearance and much more;
  • Safe and careful implementation of complex medication-based treatments according to international standards;
  • Possibility to minimize hair loss under chemotherapy with the DigniCap® scalp cooling system. Three DigniCap® devices with a total of six cooling places are available for our patients;
  • instruction regarding the nursing tasks that our patients perform independently during treatment, such as injecting syringes themselves or applying wound dressings;
  • Support and accompaniment for our patients and their relatives in dealing with various strains under therapy and mediation of the corresponding contacts such as nutritional advice or psycho-oncological care;
  • Offer palliative (symptom-alleviating) care service. This type of care focuses on quality of life.

Contact our specialist oncology nurses by e-mail or phone:
+41 44 533 81 33 | pflege@brust-zentrum.ch

Oncological nursing clinic brochure (German) (PDF)

Psycho-oncology clinic

A cancer disease is a considerable burden for those affected and their families. Support through psycho-oncological psychotherapy can be an important help in dealing with this new life situation. It is often a matter of finding one’s own strength again. Sometimes new perspectives and a deeper understanding are opened up. The procedure depends on the concerns of the patient’s needs and concerns.

Outpatient oncological rehabilitation
The diagnosis and treatment of cancer is often extremely stressful for those affected. Recovery can be supported by outpatient oncological rehabilitation, in which the programme is individually tailored to the patient’s wishes and clinical indication of treatment.

Would you like an appointment for the psycho-oncology clinic?

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Sexual medicine support for people with breast cancer

Cancer can cause massive upheaval in the life of the person affected and in the lives of the people around them, especially their partner. Often, this upheaval manifests as changes in sexuality, which are usually caused by the physical changes and side effects associated with the strenuous necessary treatments.

In the case of breast cancer, the most common changes are a reduction in sex drive and pain during sex. It is often difficult for the patient to accept their new body image and shame often prevents them from being intimate with their partner, even though they may want to.

Many women across all ages still feel a need for attention, tenderness and sexuality despite breast cancer.

Although sexuality and intimacy are important parts of life for almost everyone regardless of age, they are often very difficult to talk about. This means that problems in the patient’s sex life resulting from breast cancer are rarely spoken about in the context of the intimate relationship and are hardly discussed with the treatment team at all.

Hardly anyone talks or asks about it, but many are worried about it …
Getting the right information in a relaxed atmosphere with a specific focus on the treatment options can bring lasting improvement. This approach can help reduce feelings of fear and shame. Involving your partner also helps with this adaptation process as it helps avoid misunderstandings and can make it possible for a couple to start dealing with the disease and its consequences together once again.

Dr Eliane Sarasin-Ricklin, MD
Specialist in Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FMH)

Would you like advice and treatment for relationship problems or advice and treatment for sexual disorders?

Register
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

Strengthening the body’s self-healing ability – in the case of breast cancer, treatment with traditional Chinese medicine can have a variety of positive effects when used in addition to conventional medical treatment.

On one hand, Chinese medicine can support conventional medicine by improving long-term therapeutic effects and alleviating the side effects of surgical procedures, radiotherapy and medication-based therapy. On the other hand, TCM can help improve the patient’s personal situation by offering emotional support and contribution to the general well-being. Both ways help patients feel that they are actively participating in their treatment, which in turn supports the body’s self-healing ability and thus improves quality of life in this difficult situation.

Sarah Meier, an expert in Chinese medicine, specialises in the treatment of gynaecological patients. She supports women and men affected by breast cancer through customised treatments that use the methods of Chinese medicine. These treatments consist of acupuncture and naturopathy, including herbal medicine.

Contact us to arrange an appointment by phone or e-mail.
+41 44 533 81 00 | info@brust-zentrum.ch

Traditional Chinese medicine brochure (German) (PDF)

Complementary medicine at Breast Centre Zurich

When diagnosed with breast cancer, many women feel a need to do something to contribute to their own recovery. Many look for ways that they can be proactive, and therefore turn to natural healing methods in order to gently activate the body’s own healing mechanisms.

Many of the methods of complementary medicine have now been well researched and have been found to be useful and safe additions to conventional treatments. However, there are also some methods that have not been so well researched and/or whose safety is questionable. Here, we need to distinguish between what is helpful and what may be damaging.

The benefit of complementary medicine treatments is that they support the body’s own defences and activate its own healing mechanisms to alleviate the symptoms of conventional treatments without reducing their desired effects.

The focus of a complementary medicine consultation is to find one or several methods that suit the patient’s specific disease situation and to find a healing method that is then adapted to their personal needs. In addition, the consultation focuses on helping the patient (re)discover their own resources. It helps them to ask “What can I do for myself?” during their recovery journey.

Consultations are carried out in collaboration with Dr Teelke Beck, MD, MA, who, after nine years at Breast Centre Zurich as a surgeon on the core surgery team, has been running her own practice in Richterswil since 2016 and has been combining conventional medicine with complementary medicine for many years.

For further information, go to www.senobeck.ch.

Contact us to arrange an appointment by phone or e-mail.
+41 44 533 81 00 | info@brust-zentrum.ch

Cosmetic pigmentation

The beauty of breasts is strongly associated with femininity. This is why many women lose their self-confidence after surgery on the breasts, especially after radical surgery with loss of the nipple. In recent years, medical pigmentation of the areola has become established as an alternative to plastic surgery in the reconstruction of the nipple.

Other applications of cosmetic pigmentation:

  • after surgery with partial or total loss of eyebrows or lips;
  • after chemotherapy with partial or total loss of eyebrows or eyelashes;
  • in the case of burns;
  • in the case of scars caused by accidents;
  • in the case of alopecia areata.

If you would like to know more about medical pigmentation or about pigmentation of the areola specifically, Astrid Keller will be glad to advise you. You can make an appointment at Breast Centre Zurich any time or arrange one with Astrid Keller directly:

Brust-Zentrum Zürich
Seefeldstrasse 214
8008 Zürich

Astrid Keller
Phone +41 44 533 81 00
E-mail info@brust-zentrum.ch

www.permanent-schoen.ch

Second Opinion

If you would like an independent second opinion on the proposed therapy concept for breast cancer, we offer you an all-encompassing consultation.

Please contact us to arrange an appointment by phone or e-mail.
+41 44 533 81 00 | info@brust-zentrum.ch

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