Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast cancer develops in the breast tissue. A lump in the breast, pain in the breast area, a change in shape and skin texture of the breast, fluid discharge from the nipple, or a newly inverted nipple may be symptoms of breast cancer.
There are various types of advanced treatment options available for the treatment of breast cancer. Whatever option is chosen, the main goals of the treatment are:
- To destroy the cancer cells as much as possible.
- To prevent the recurrence of the disease.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
Tests performed to diagnose breast cancer include:
- Breast examination- This is a physical examination where your doctor will check your breasts and the lymph nodes at the armpits for any lumps or other abnormalities.
- Mammogram- Mammograms are most commonly performed screening test for breast cancer. It is an X-ray of the breast to detect abnormalities.
- Biopsy- A biopsy gives a precise diagnosis of cancer. During a biopsy, a sample of tissue is extracted from the suspicious lump or area and sent to a pathologist for examination.
- Breast ultrasound- Ultrasound or sound waves may be used to determine whether the suspicious breast lump is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)- A MRI scan gives an idea of the interior breast tissues by using magnetic and radio waves. A dye is injected into the breast before the scan which helps to mark the abnormal areas.
Once breast cancer has been diagnosed, your team of breast cancer doctors might suggest a few more tests to determine the extent of how much the cancer has spread in the body. This is called staging and is crucial while deciding on the further treatment plan.
Breast cancer treatment plans are very personalized and depend on several factors like
- Tumor subtype, including hormone receptor status
- The stage of cancer
- The patient’s age, general health conditions, menopausal status, and other personal preferences.
- The presence of mutations in inherited breast cancer genes.
What are the different types of treatment plans available for breast cancer?
- Surgery to remove the whole breast(mastectomy), or to remove just the tumor and tissues around it(lumpectomy) is usually recommended. Reconstructive surgery/ plastic surgery is sometimes done along with mastectomy to reconstruct the missing breast. Tissues taken from the body or synthetic implants are used during reconstructive surgery.
- Radiation therapy or radiotherapy uses high-energy radio waves to kill the cancerous cells.
- Chemotherapy uses aggressive chemical drugs to destroy cancer cells. As these medicines fight the disease, they also can cause side effects, like nausea, hair loss, hot flashes, fatigue and so on.
- Hormone therapy uses drugs to inetrfere with hormone production especially estrogen. Estrogen promotes the growth of breast cancer cells. Sometimes surgery is performed on the ovaries to stop the production of female hormones.
- Targeted therapy targets the cancer-specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. These treatments are very localized. It is different from chemotherapy as it blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while avoiding or limiting damage to healthy cells.
Your treatment plan may include a combination of the above treatment methods. This is done in order to destroy any cancer cells left behind after surgery.