Breast Cancer Treatments

Breast Cancer Treatments

Breast Cancer Treatments in the 21st Century.

Fortunately for breast cancer patients, there are more breast cancer treatments available today than ever before. Before we can focus on the treatments themselves, however, it is important to talk about detection and diagnosis. Early detection is paramount for successful diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. This means staying aware of your body – especially for women over 40. Self checks should become second nature for adult women. While 17% of all breast cancer cases occur in women over 40, and 78% occur in women over 50, there are enough risk factors that all adult women should be comfortable doing self examinations weekly if not daily. Furthermore, the importance of annual mammograms for women 40 and older cannot be overstated. Mammograms are the single best tool in early detection. Remember, cancer cannot be treated until it is diagnosed.

Standard Breast Cancer Treatments

There are several standard breast cancer treatments that are accepted by today’s world of medicine. These treatments have all proven significant effectiveness and are used every day to treat breast cancer patients all over the world.

Surgery is the most common of breast cancer treatments. This treatment is essentially the process of surgically excising the cancerous growth from the breast – often along with some of the nearby lymph nodes so they can be checked for cancer cells. Ideally, the surgeon will pursue breast-conserving surgery (either a Lumpectomy or a Partial Mastectomy), but in some cases (with especially aggressive cases of cancer or those detected late) it may be necessary to execute a total (or even radical) mastectomy, which would involve removing the entire breast (plus, possibly, the lymph nodes and some of the chest wall).

Radiation Therapy and Chemotherapy are two more breast cancer treatments that are very well known. In fact, these two treatments are often confused. The methodologies for these two treatments are similar in that they are designed to kill the cancer in the body. Radiation therapy is pursued either by projecting radiation energy into the cancer-infected part of the body, or by injecting radioactive material into that part of the body. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, relies on the use of drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy is either applied systemically or regionally. In both of these breast cancer treatments, the goal is to either kill the cancer cells or prevent them from dividing.

Hormone Therapy is somewhat less well-known than other methods of breast cancer treatments. Hormone treatment is essentially the introduction of chemical agents into the body that suppress the body’s creation of hormones that may be promoting the growth of cancerous cells.

Future Treatments

In addition to the standard breast cancer treatments, there are a number of new treatments that are currently undergoing clinical trials. Many of these treatments show great promise, and all are contributing to the advance of cancer science.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy is the removal of the sentinel lymph node in surgery. Since it is the first node to receive lymphatic drainage from the tumor, it is often the first node to fall to the cancer. One the sentinel node is removed, a dye (or traceable isotope) is introduced near the tumor. The first lymph node to receive the dye (now that the sentinel node is removed) is then removed and analyzed. If this node is cancer-free, the remaining nodes can often be left in place. The tumor is then removed. Proponents of this treatment hope it can reduce cases where lymph nodes are unnecessarily removed from a cancer patient.

High-Dose Chemotherapy with Stem Cell Transplant is a modified chemotherapy treatment where high doses of chemotherapy are used to aggressively attack the cancer, and then stem cells (which often were taken from the patient before treatment and stored) are introduced to replace the blood-forming cells destroyed by the treatment.

Monoclonal Antibodies as Adjuvant Therapy is a treatment where antibodies are produced from a single type of immune system cell. The antibodies are then introduced via infusion. Once in the body, they identify certain materials on cancer cells or other materials on normal cells that may help cancer grow. By attacking these substances, the monoclonal antibodies block cancer cell growth and spread.

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