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Breast Cancer Treatment Guidelines Written For Patients Revised; Updated Information More Comprehensive

PHILADELPHIA (August 15, 2000) -- Updated breast cancer treatment guidelines written in easy-to-understand language are now available for free from the American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Version III of the NCCN Breast Cancer Treatment Guidelines for Patients provides updated information about sentinel node mapping, neoadjuvant therapy and radiation after surgery.

This valuable resource offers breast cancer patients the reliable, specific and easy-to-understand information they need to make timely and informed decisions about this critical health issue. The guidelines, developed by the NCCN, are used by the nation's top cancer specialists. The NCCN is a nationwide network of 18 leading cancer centers including Fox Chase Cancer Center, a founding member. Physicians look to the NCCN for guidance on the highest quality, most effective advice on treating cancer. The NCCN's mission is to make state-of-the-art cancer care available nationwide, through efforts of cancer treatment guidelines.

The updated version adds information on sentinel lymph node mapping, a procedure in which dye or a radioactive substance is injected near the tumor, and the first (sentinel) lymph node the dye drains into is removed and biopsied to check for tumor cells. This procedure known as sentinel node mapping can help determine if the cancer has spread beyond the breast and whether additional surgery is needed. The revised guidelines also include a new algorithm dealing with neoadjuvant therapy. Neoadjuvant therapy includes treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation or hormone therapy given before surgery to help shrink some breast cancer so that surgical removal can be accomplished with a less extensive operation than would ordinarily be needed. More detailed information regarding radiation treatment after surgery is also included.

For each stage, the guidelines give step-by-step information allowing the patient and doctor to discuss the choices regarding treatment. The flow charts are broken down into the following categories:

  • cancer stage (stages indicate how far breast cancer has spread within the breast, to nearby tissues, and to other organs)
  • work-up (the tests done to help determine the initial breast cancer diagnosis)
  • treatment
  • prevention (what can be done to prevent a recurrence of the disease)
  • follow-up

Because each patient's situation is unique and must be evaluated individually, breast cancer patients are encouraged to ask their doctor the following questions:

  1. What is the stage of my disease?
  2. How many tumors do I have and how large are they?
  3. What is my tumor's grade (how abnormal do the cells appear) and its histology (type and arrangement of tumor cell), as seen under a microscope?
  4. Do I have lymph nodes with cancer (positive lymph nodes)? If yes, how many?
  5. Is my cancer estrogen receptor-positive or progesterone receptor-positive?
  6. Is breast conserving therapy an option for me?
  7. In addition to surgery, what other treatments do you recommend? What are their side effects?

To obtain free copies (up to 99) of the patient version of the newly updated breast cancer guidelines, contact the National Comprehensive Cancer Network at 1-888-909-NCCN or the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345. You may also visit their web sites at or

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at:

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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