Early detection of breast cancer minimizes the likelihood that the cancer has spread, and it increases the chances of making a complete recovery.
Treatment depends on individual circumstances, such as the rate of growth, how it responds to treatment, and whether or not it has spread. Treatment options for breast cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and medication therapy (including hormone and biological therapy).
With surgery, part or all of the breast is removed. Removal of a small part of the breast (only the tumour and some surrounding tissue) is called a lumpectomy, or partial mastectomy if a larger area of the breast is removed. A simple mastectomy involves removing the whole breast, and a radical mastectomy includes the underlying chest muscle and tissue as well. The lymph nodes in the underarms may also be taken out. Breast reconstruction surgery may be an option for many women either at the time of surgery or at a later date.
Chemotherapy is usually given by injection. Chemotherapy interferes with the growth of cancer cells, but it also affects healthy cells. Common side effects of chemotherapy can include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and infection.
Hormonal therapy (e.g., tamoxifen*, or the class of medications known as aromatase inhibitors) also helps stop the growth of cancer cells and may be used for up to 5 years for postmenopausal women who have receptor-positive cancer. Common side effects of hormonal therapy include hot flashes and irregular menstruation.
On rare occasions, systemic therapy is used before surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy. This type of treatment is used to improve chances of avoiding a mastectomy in favour of a lumpectomy, or to control a cancer that involves a large portion of the breast.
Radiation therapy is often administered after lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. Radiation kills cancer cells in the breast and sometimes in the armpit and chest wall as well. Side effects of radiation therapy such as skin redness and tiredness are the result of healthy tissue in the area being destroyed, and go away on their own following the completion of therapy.
While successful surgery and radiation therapy rely on exact knowledge of where the tumour is located, systemic therapy does not. Chemotherapy involves taking one or more medications to destroy cancer cells in various parts of the body. Hormone therapy works on cancerous cells that have estrogen receptors, making them susceptible to estrogen-blocking medications.
Biological therapy interferes with the growth of cancer cells and helps the body to kill cancer cells. It is usually used for breast cancer that has too much of a protein called HER2.
For some women with a high risk of breast cancer, research has shown that an anti-estrogen medication may be used to help prevent breast cancer.
Since there are risks associated with any medication, the decision to use preventative therapy should be made after knowing all of the risks and benefits of treatment.
There are also other steps you can take to reduce your risk of breast cancer:
- exercise regularly
- eat a healthy, low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
- reduce alcohol intake (risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed; even 1 to 2 drinks per day can slightly increase your risk)
- consider the risks of taking hormone replacement therapy (especially for more than 5 years)
- avoid smoking
In addition, women should become familiar with the usual look and feel of their breasts. This will ensure you are aware of any changes in your breasts. Report any changes to your doctor.
From age 40 to 49, you should talk with your doctor about your risk of breast cancer and screening options for you. From age 50 to 69, women of average risk should also have mammograms every 2 years. If you have a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer or are outside of this age range, ask your doctor when you should have a mammogram. These measures help detect any unusual lumps or abnormalities in breast tissue. Early detection can make a big difference in successful treatment.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2017. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/condition/getcondition/Breast-Cancer