NHCI Breast Cancer Program

The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) Breast Cancer Program diagnoses and/or treats more breast cancer patients than any other cancer program in the Southeast. Each year, nearly 2,500 patients choose Northside Hospital as their trusted provider of high quality breast cancer care.

Northside is among the top five breast cancer programs in the country and one of the nation’s leading providers of breast cancer diagnostic and treatment services. The Breast Cancer Program is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, demonstrating our commitment to providing exceptional breast cancer care and support throughout each patient’s breast cancer journey.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is cancer that starts in the tissues of the breast. There are two main types of breast cancer:

  • Ductal carcinoma starts in the tubes (ducts) that carry milk from the breast to the nipple. Most breast cancers are of this type.
  • Lobular carcinoma starts in the parts of the breast, called lobules, which produce milk.

In rare cases, breast cancer can start in other areas of the breast.

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Northside has built one of the largest breast cancer programs in the country

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

While it is known that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer, every woman, and some men, carry some risk of developing the disease. Early breast cancer often does not cause symptoms. This is why regular breast screenings, such as mammograms, are so important.

As the cancer grows, breast cancer symptoms may include:

  • Breast lump or lump in the armpit that is hard, has uneven edges, and usually does not hurt.
  • Change in the size, shape, or feel of the breast or nipple. For example, you may have redness, dimpling, or puckering that looks like the skin of an orange.
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward).
  • Fluid from the nipple. Fluid may be bloody, clear to yellow, green or look like pus.
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol

Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt.

Click here for more details about breast cancer symptoms.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors & Prevention

Risk Factors

Not all men and women have the same risk for developing breast cancer over a lifetime. Certain factors increase an individual's risk, and some have a bigger impact on risk than others. Many risk factors, such as age and gender, are not within our control. Others, especially those related to personal behaviors, can be modified.

Breast cancer risk factors include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being physically active
  • Not having children
  • Not breast feeding
  • Using birth control
  • Hormone therapy after menopause
  • Breast implants
  • Certain inherited genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Family and/or personal history of breast cancer
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Certain benign breast conditions
  • Starting menopause early
  • Menopause after age 55
  • Having radiation to the chest

Our Cancer Genetics Program is dedicated to helping patients assess, understand and reduce the risk of developing certain types of genetically influenced cancer such as breast cancer. Individuals with a strong family history of cancer, which may include earlier than average age at cancer diagnosis and multiple family members with the same type of cancer or cancers associated with the same genetic cause (like breast and ovarian), may benefit from a consult with one of our genetic counselors.

Some patients may be referred for a consult after receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer and before initiation of treatment. The Cancer Genetics Program can help newly diagnosed patients understand the role that genetics might play in their treatment decisions.

For more information on the Cancer Genetics Program or to schedule an appointment, please call 404-851-6284 or email genetics@northside.com.

Prevention

Information is key to early detection. Northside’s Breast Cancer Program is committed to providing women with the education and resources they need to stay healthy.

  • Our statewide network of imaging centers and Screen Atlanta Mobile Mammography make scheduling a mammogram convenient. Same-day diagnostic mammography and a full range of diagnostic and screening services are offered.
  • The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute community outreach team provides community members with health education related to topics such as breast cancer prevention, screening and diagnosis.

While there is no guaranteed prevention against breast cancer, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise and avoiding smoking and other tobacco products will reduce the risk of breast cancer.

As part of our comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and education, Northside Hospital offers Built To Quit, a smoking and tobacco cessation program offering resources to help individuals quit smoking and stop using other tobacco products. For additional information or to register for a class, please call 404-780-7653 or email smokingcessation@northside.com.

2019 Built to Quit
Class Schedule (English)
2019 Built to Quit
Class Schedule (Spanish)

Breast Cancer Screening & Diagnosis

Screening

Regular mammograms - the only test proven to significantly reduce the rate of death from breast cancer - are pivotal to detecting breast cancer early, when the disease is most treatable.

As a national leader in the fight against breast cancer, Northside Hospital Cancer Institute supports the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommendation for annual mammograms beginning at age 40. Because of their family history, genetic tendency or other risk factors, some women should be screened with a breast MRI in addition to mammography. Talk with your doctor about your personal and family history and whether you should have additional tests or should start screening for breast cancer at an earlier age.

Northside Hospital provides comprehensive breast cancer screening and diagnostic services at convenient locations across Georgia, as well as through our Screen Atlanta Mobile Mammography van.

Call 404-851-6577 to schedule an appointment for a breast cancer screening at one of our imaging centers.

Screen Atlanta Mobile Mammography

A specially equipped van, made possible through a generous grant from the Northside Hospital Atlanta Auxiliary, offers screening mammograms at various locations throughout Georgia communities.

Screen Atlanta is certified by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and meets the standards set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA). Mammograms provided on the mobile unit are of the same high quality as those provided at our outpatient imaging locations. Each mammogram is performed by a Northside Hospital registered radiologic technologist (RRT), with advanced training and certification in mammography, and is interpreted by a board-certified radiologist, who has received advanced training in breast imaging.

Call 770-667-4400 to schedule an appointment with Screen Atlanta.

Breast Care Fund

If patients can’t afford a mammogram, Northside is here to help. Through generous grants from community partners such as the Northside Hospital Foundation, Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta, Georgia 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer and Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE), Northside is able to provide financial support for mammograms and breast diagnostic services for qualified applicants. For more information about financial support for mammograms, please call 770-667-4400 or download our flyer below.

Eligibility Requirements for
Breast Cancer Screenings

Diagnosis

We offer specialized breast cancer care to diagnose and treat all types of breast cancer, including:

  • Ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ
  • Lobular carcinoma and lobular carcinoma in situ
  • Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Triple-negative breast cancer
  • Recurrent / metastatic breast cancer

Digital Mammography and Other Diagnostic Services

Mammography is the gold standard for breast imaging when diagnosing and screening for breast cancer. It is the only test that has been proven to significantly reduce the rate of death from breast cancer. Northside Hospital performs more than 100,000 mammograms each year.

At Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, we offer a variety of diagnostic tests and procedures to diagnose breast cancer. These diagnostic services are performed in the outpatient setting by radiologists who are sub-specialized in breast imaging procedures.

Your guide to understanding
breast density

NHCI offers the following services to diagnose breast cancer:

All Northside Hospital imaging centers are accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR), and our breast imaging centers are designated as Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence (BICOE) by the ACR.

Northside makes scheduling a mammogram or diagnostic service easy with imaging centers throughout Georgia offering evening and weekend hours.

Call 404-851-6577 to schedule an appointment at one of our imaging centers.

Team of Breast Cancer Specialists

The strength of Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Program is our multidisciplinary team of dedicated breast cancer specialists and oncology support services team members. Our expert physicians work together every step of the way to provide individualized care for each breast cancer patient. Northside’s Breast Cancer Program offers a comprehensive scope of medical services, the latest technology, leading-edge clinical research and compassionate care and support.

Our multidisciplinary medical team of breast cancer specialists consists of:

  • Breast surgeons
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Certified genetic counselors
  • Breast cancer nurse navigators
  • Breast cancer research nurses

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Multidisciplinary 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

NHCI’s Breast Cancer Program holds weekly multidisciplinary breast cancer conferences to provide a forum for breast cancer specialists to review radiology and pathology images and discuss the best Breast Cancer Treatment Options, including clinical trials, and agree upon an evidence-based treatment plan for each patient. By prospectively discussing breast cancer cases during conference, breast cancer patients get the benefit of not just one clinical perspective but more than a dozen expert opinions.

Breast Cancer Treatment Options

The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Program is committed to providing high quality breast cancer treatment and making access to breast care as convenient as possible.

Our accredited program treats every type of breast cancer with the latest cancer treatments – including personalized therapies based on the cancer’s specific genetic makeup. Breast cancer treatment requires a team of specialists working together to provide the best care possible for the patient – Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s breast cancer specialists and oncology support services personnel work together to ensure all patients receive high quality, evidence-based care.

Expand the content below for more information about breast cancer treatments.

Surgery is the first line of defense against most breast cancers. Each type of breast cancer must be evaluated in terms of its unique features to determine which surgery is the best option.

Northside Hospital is one of only a few hospitals in the country to develop dedicated, women-only breast care surgery suites, offering patients privacy and comfort.

Northside’s skilled surgeons perform a wide range of procedures including:

Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction- Questions to Ask the Doctor

Chemotherapy, or “chemo” uses medication to destroy cancer cells by stopping growth. For treatment of breast cancer, a doctor may recommend chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor; after surgery to reduce the chance of it spreading; or as treatment for a cancer that has recurred.

At Northside's Infusion Centers, chemotherapy is provided on an outpatient basis by registered nurses who are certified in chemotherapy administration.

Chemotherapy- Questions to Ask the Doctor

Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses high energy X-rays or radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation Therapy may be used before the surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill remaining cancerous cells. Computer-Assisted Detection (CAD) gives radiologists a “second set of eyes” by flagging areas of potential concern.

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) / brachytherapy are the most common techniques for treating breast cancer with radiation therapy.

Radiation Therapy- Questions to Ask the Doctor

Learn more about our Radiation Oncology Program.

Hormonal therapy is used to treat hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers in two ways:

  • by lowering the amount of the hormone estrogen in the body
  • by blocking the action of estrogen on breast cancer cells

Most of the estrogen in women's bodies is made by the ovaries. Estrogen makes hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers grow. Reducing the amount of estrogen or blocking its action can reduce the risk of early-stage hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers coming back (recurring) after surgery. Hormonal therapy medicines can also be used to help shrink or slow the growth of advanced-stage or metastatic hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers. Hormonal therapy medicines are NOT effective against hormone-receptor-negative breast cancers.

As researchers have learned more about changes in cancer cells that cause them to grow out of control, they have developed new types of drugs that target some of these cell changes. These targeted drugs are designed to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. These drugs work differently from chemotherapy drugs, which attack all cells that are growing quickly (including cancer cells).

Targeted therapy sometimes works even when chemotherapy does not. Some targeted drugs can help other types of treatment work better. Targeted drugs also tend to have different side effects than chemo.

Targeted Therapy- Questions to Ask the Doctor

Biological therapy, also called immunotherapy, uses the body’s immune system to treat cancer. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation, or targeted therapy that fight cancer cells directly, immunotherapy helps the immune system to fight cancer cells.

To date, there are several immunotherapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat breast cancer.

Learn more about our Immunotherapy Program.

Over the past 40 years, breast cancer treatment has greatly improved due to lessons learned through clinical trials. Clinical trials test the safety and benefits of new treatments, diagnosis methods and screening tests.

People who take part in cancer clinical trials have an opportunity to contribute to scientists’ knowledge of cancer and to help in the development of improved cancer treatments, while receiving state-of-the-art care from cancer experts.

It is important that patients have access to as many treatment options as possible. At Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, we participate in multiple breast cancer clinical trials, allowing our team of breast cancer specialists to offer patients more innovative treatment options. The clinical trials being conducted today may become the new standard of care in the coming years.

Learn more about Cancer Clinical Trials and Research at Northside Hospital

Learn more about NHCI cancer treatment options

Breast Cancer Support & Survivorship

For anyone facing breast cancer treatment and recovery, ongoing support is crucial to a patient’s quality of life. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Program provides a full range of breast cancer support and survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of each breast cancer patient and survivor.

Breast cancer treatment and recovery can be overwhelming, which is why our Breast Cancer Program offers patients access to oncology nurse navigators to guide them through every step of their cancer journey – from diagnosis and treatment to recovery. Our breast cancer nurse navigators are registered nurses with extensive knowledge and training in oncology. They are available to provide education and support to patients who are diagnosed and/or treated within the Northside Hospital system.

Our oncology nurse navigators facilitate access to Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s comprehensive portfolio of cancer patient support and survivorship services to ensure each breast cancer patient receives coordinated and personalized care.

To speak with an oncology nurse navigator, please call 404-300-2800 or email nurse.navigator@northside.com.

Network of Hope

The Network of Hope (NoH) program connects cancer patients with trained volunteers who have also faced cancer and embraced life afterward. Volunteer cancer survivors and caregivers are available to mentor cancer patients throughout their treatment.

To request a mentor, please email networkofhope@northside.com. To become a mentor after you complete your treatment, please call 404-851-8707 or email networkofhope@northside.com.

Learn more about all of our NHCI
Support & Survivorship services