The month of October is dedicated to increasing awareness among people about breast cancer. Genetic, biological and environmental factors play a role in developing risk factors for breast cancer. For example, people with a family history of breast cancer are at a high risk of developing it themselves. Risk of breast cancer increases with increasing age, especially in women. Obesity is another major risk factor. We know enough about the problem, so let’s talk about the solutions that are available in this blog.
For any cancer treatment, there is a team of doctors that attends the patient. This team includes doctors that have individual specializations in radiology, surgery, oncology, etc. They come together so that they can devise the best fit treatment for a patient. Breast cancer cases can differ from each other based on the tumor origin and severity, patient profile as well as genetic changes. So the treatment team has to consider such various factors before devising a treatment method.
Even though cases vary, there are certain specific treatment options available for breast cancer patients. Let’s discuss them in more detail below:
- Surgery: When a tumor is small in size, patients are generally recommended to have it surgically removed from their body. In a surgery for breast cancer, the tumor is removed along with some adjacent healthy tissue. Surgery is also useful in studying the lymph nodes near the tumor (under the arm). There are two types of surgeries for breast cancer treatment:
- Lumpectomy: Here, the tumor and a small part of the adjoining healthy tissue is surgically removed. Majority of the breast remains after surgery and patients are advised to continue with radiation therapy, especially in case of invasive cancer.
- Mastectomy: Here, the entirety of the breast(s) is surgically removed. There are different ways to do this, which can be discussed with the doctor depending on the size of the tumor. Women with very high risk of developing cancers (due to gene mutations, etc.) are usually recommended to remove both of their breasts.
In breast cancer, the cancerous cells can spread to the area under your arm too. They are found in the axillary lymph nodes there. In some cases, surgery includes looking out for cancer cells in this area and dissecting or removing them.
- Radiation therapy: One of the most well known options. Here, the patient is exposed to X-rays or other particles that destroy cancer cells. Depending on the tumor, radiation therapy can be given before or after surgery. This treatment goes on over a period of time and can help reduce the recurrence of cancer. There are a few side effects associated with this therapy, which the doctor will advise you about. There are various types of radiation therapy available, such as:|
- External-beam radiation therapy: Radiation is given from a machine outside the body.
- Intraoperative radiation therapy: Radiation is given from a probe
- Brachytherapy: Radiation is given by placing radioactive sources in the tumors
- Medication therapies: When medications are taken orally or via an injection, they travel everywhere in the body and kill the cancer cells. Such therapies are called systemic therapies. The different types include:
- Chemotherapy: A chemotherapy schedule is such that a patient receives a combination of drugs in a specific number of cycles over a fixed period of time. It is planned according to various studies of a certain drug regimen and how it fits the patient. Side effects such as fatigue, vomiting, nausea, hair loss, loss of appetite, etc. are common but very much manageable.
- Hormonal therapy: This therapy is useful for eradication tumors that show positive results for progesterone or estrogen receptors. This therapy includes medications that block such receptors and halt the growth of the tumor. Sometimes hormonal therapy can also be given before surgery to make it easier and after surgery to prevent a recurrence.
- Targeted therapy: This therapy focuses on attacking specific cancer genes or tissues and causes less damage to healthy body cells. It works differently than chemotherapy. Depending on the patient profile and tumor analysis, various targeted therapies are available for breast cancer patients.
- Immunotherapy: Like the name indicates, this type of therapy is used to improve the body’s immune function so it can fight cancer better. The body’s immunity can be boosted by substances that originate from the body or are synthetic (laboratory made) in nature.
Early diagnosis of breast cancer is very helpful for a successful treatment. For that, we need to educate ourselves and improve our existing knowledge of breast cancer. Spreading awareness among people and encouraging them to get regular check ups is a great way to ensure early diagnosis. We need to show support to cancer patients and offer them a positive and safe space that may help them heal and get back to normal.
Breast Cancer: Types of Treatment. Available from: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/breast-cancer/types-treatment. Accessed on 20 October 2020.