Mayo Clinic's approach

Chemotherapy for breast cancer consultation

Your Mayo Clinic care team

Your care team is made up of highly specialized experts in the delivery of safe chemotherapy for breast cancer. They work together to provide exactly the care you need.

Personalized breast cancer treatment

Your breast cancer care team, led by doctors in the Breast Clinic, works closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan. In the past, most people with breast cancer underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy. Now precision medicine for breast cancer allows doctors to create a treatment plan that's tailored to the hormonal and genetic characteristics of your tumor. All treatment options are available at Mayo Clinic, including genomic profiling of your tumor.

Your treatment plan will be based on what's right for you and what matters to you. For example, at Mayo Clinic, people with early-stage breast cancer may be eligible for a type of chemotherapy delivered before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) to shrink the tumor. And people who never had breast cancer but are considered to have a high risk of developing it may be offered preventive strategies or referred to the High Risk Breast Clinic.

Mental health specialists also are part of the Mayo Clinic breast cancer care team. Talk with your doctor about whether you might benefit from a referral to one of them.

Breast cancer team collaborates

Innovative techniques

People with breast cancer who come to Mayo Clinic have access to innovative chemotherapy techniques, some of which aren't widely available:

  • Scalp cooling therapy to prevent hair loss. Mayo Clinic uses a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved cold therapy device (cooling cap) that reduces the risk of hair loss from chemotherapy.
  • Chemotherapy before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy). This technique shrinks the tumor before surgery, which has been proved to improve surgery outcomes.
  • Clinical research studies. Your doctor may talk with you about participating in a clinical research study (clinical trial). Clinical trials give you access to drugs and the latest treatments not yet generally available.

Chemo targets

Vivien Williams: Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. If caught early, melanoma can be cured but once it spreads, the disease can be tough to treat. The good news is that treatments keep getting better. Doctors at Mayo Clinic are using a new surgical technique to deliver high doses of chemo directly to areas that need it without exposing the rest of the body.

Patricia Simmons: The first one was in 1981 on my back.

Ms. Williams: Since that diagnosis of malignant melanoma 30 years ago, Patricia Simmons has battled several other instances of the disease.

Ms. Simmons: I've had my ankle operated on twice.

Ms. Williams: Recently, Patricia learned that the disease had spread throughout her right leg but because it was contained in her leg and it hadn't spread elsewhere, Patricia was a candidate for a new procedure at Mayo Clinic called hypothermic isolated limb perfusion.

Richard Gray, M.D., Mayo Clinic surgical oncologist: Hypothermic isolated limb perfusion is a way of treating primarily melanoma but some other types of cancer that is isolated to a single limb.

Ms. Williams: Dr. Richard Gray says the technique allows them to deliver very high doses of chemotherapy that if given through an IV into your blood stream could damage organs such as your heart.

Dr. Gray:The doses are so high at those levels that it would cause problems with other organ systems, her bone marrow, her kidneys, if it was delivered to her entire body.

Ms. Williams: Here is how it works. First, Dr. Gray and his team isolate the main artery and vein that supply blood to the leg, then they tourniquet the leg and hook the artery and vein up to a bypass machine, similar to the ones used in open heart surgery. Once the machine is moving the blood through the leg, they administer the high-doses of chemotherapy. The doses they can deliver the arm or leg are 6 to 10 times higher than what would be safe or appropriate to give to the person's whole body. For Patricia, the treatment worked. It effectively killed the cancer.

Ms. Simmons: I hope this is the end of melanomas for my leg.

Ms. Williams: And now knowing that the cancer is gone, Patricia can concentrate on living a full life and enjoy every minute with her family. Limb perfusion is not right for all people with melanoma but for the right patient, the therapy can be very beneficial. Now research shows that sun exposure can cause malignant melanoma so wear sunscreen, protective clothing and avoid the harmful rays.

For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.

Expertise and rankings

Mayo Clinic consultation for chemotherapy for breast cancer

Every year Mayo Clinic chemotherapy teams treat thousands of people with breast cancer. These teams help people with all types of breast cancer, from the least to the most aggressive.

Nationally recognized expertise

Mayo Clinic is recognized for high-quality breast cancer care and research by national organizations.

  • Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, recognizing scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Mayo Clinic is part of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC) and NRG Oncology, which are international groups of scientists who work together to conduct clinical trials and reduce the impact of cancer.
  • Mayo Clinic is one of a select group of medical centers in the United States to be recognized as a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) for breast cancer research, funded by the National Cancer Institute. To earn a highly competitive SPORE grant, institutions must demonstrate a high degree of collaboration between first-rate scientists and clinicians and show excellence in translational research projects.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, are ranked among the Best Hospitals for cancer by U.S. News & World Report.

Locations, travel and lodging

Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.

For more information on visiting Mayo Clinic, choose your location below:

Costs and insurance

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Learn more about appointments at Mayo Clinic.

Please contact your insurance company to verify medical coverage and to obtain any needed authorization prior to your visit. Often, your insurer's customer service number is printed on the back of your insurance card.

More information about billing and insurance:

Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota

Mayo Clinic Health System

Clinical trials

Explore Mayo Clinic studies of tests and procedures to help prevent, detect, treat or manage conditions.

Oct. 06, 2022
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  14. Anxiety. Cancer.Net. Accessed Dec. 15, 2020.
  15. Hair loss or alopecia. Cancer.Net. Accessed Dec. 15, 2020.
  16. An KY, et al. Effects of exercise dose and type during breast cancer chemotherapy on longer-term patient-reported outcomes and health-related fitness: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Cancer. 2020; doi:10.1002/ijc.32493.
  17. Breast SPOREs. National Cancer Institute. Accessed Jan. 21, 2021.
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Chemotherapy for breast cancer