Breast Cancer And Possible Treatments
According to the latest studies made by American Cancer Society (ACS) more than 190,000 women were affected with breast cancer just in the year 1996 (ACS Breast). In terms of severity, breast cancer comes just after the lung cancer, being the cause of death for hundreds of women every year. But the good side is that several options are available to treat the patients of breast cancer.
Although prevention is the better way for treating any kind of disease, no such prevention method has been discovered as yet for the breast cancer. The recommendation from ACS suggested the women in the age group of 20 and more, to go through regular self examination process of their breast. The recommendation also asked the women to go for clinical checkup for every 3 years. (ACS Breast). Tumors can also be detected by using mammography, but the issue of when and how many times the mammograms could be done is still debatable. Mammography has been proved to be an effective way to diagnose the cancerous property of any tumor.
There are two main types if treatments for breast cancer, which are local and systemic. Local treatments are performed by surgical process and radiation therapy to control or kill the cancerous cells in the affected region. The systemic treatments are performed with the help of hormonal therapy and chemotherapy to kill or control the growth of the cancerous cells at any places of the body.
Being the common method to treat the breast cancer, the surgery or mastectomy basically deals with removing whole or part of the breast. There are different types of surgery methods for breast cancer. However, doctors might like to avoid this treatment method for the harmful after effects such as arm swelling, difficulty in moving shoulder and weakening in the nearest arm. In case there is no other way out than mastectomy, then the patient should go for breast reconstruction process performed after the surgery (Kushner 37).
The breast-sparing surgery is another variation of the surgical treatment, which consists of lumpectomies and segmental mastectomies. This surgery is performed by removing the cancerous lump without hampering the surrounding breast tissue. The patient should undergo radiation therapy as a post operative procedure for destroying the remaining cancerous cells in that region. To be on the safe side, doctors also prefer to take away the lymph nodes present under the arm to safeguard the lymphatic system against cancer.
Another known treatment method for breast cancer is the radiation therapy, which destroys the cancerous cells and holds back the growth process by using x-rays in high degree. The source of radiation could be any external source or the radioactive pellets inserted into the breasts or both. To get the radiation from outside, patients have to go to the clinic or health center in a daily basis. If the radiation is performed as a post-operative treatment of breast sparing surgery, then the patients have to take the radiation for a period of 5-6 weeks considering 5 days of radiation session per week. Finally, an additional booster dose of radiation is given to the affected area. Implant radiation requires the patient to get admitted into the hospital. The radiation therapy can generate side-effects like breast swelling and dehydrated skin at the radiated area of the body.
Chemotherapy is often used as a common procedure to treat breast cancer. Being a type of systemic therapies, it destroys the cancel cells by using a combination of certain useful drugs. The traditional method of chemotherapy is performed following a cycle of treatment period and recovery period and vice versa (NIH 23). Similar to the radiation therapy, it can also be performed for the outpatients. However chemotherapy has certain terrible side effects like loss of hair, nausea, loss of appetite, infertility, sores in the vaginal area, tiredness etc, which affects the patient very badly (ACS For Women 32). Although, all these side effects other than infertility might go away after completion of the treatment.
Among the other treatments of breast cancer, hormone therapy has come up to be a great success. In this method, medications are used to stop the hormone supply to the tumors, to impede the growth. This can be confirmed by removing hormone supplying body parts like glands and ovaries.
The bone marrow transplantation might provide positive breakthrough in treating breast cancer. This procedure involves transplanting healthy bone marrow from other part of the body or from some other person. However research is still going on to make this a great success.
It is really difficult to take the right treatment decision, as there are multiple options. Mostly the doctors and the patient jointly decide to go for a preferred type of treatment. However there are certain deciding factors on the patient’s side, which include health condition, age, menopausal condition, tumor location and breast size (ACS Breast). It also considers some important features of the tumors, like the positive effect of the hormone for the growth of the tumor. More importantly the stage of the disease is determined to decide on the treatment method, which is measured by the size of the cancerous lump and the area affected by cancer.
The primary stages of breast cancer are stage I and stage II. In case of stage I, cancer cells remain inside the breast area and the tumor has the diameter of 1 inch or less. The cancer spreads to affect the lymph nodes under the arm and/or the breast tumor has 1-2 inches of diameter, in case of stage II patients.
The breast-sparing surgery combined with radiation therapy as the primary local treatment can be effective for the women having primary stage of breast cancer. Otherwise they could go for a mastectomy, which will also give the same result as the previous.
Whether the patient would go for a mastectomy or breast-sparing surgery depends on certain facts like tumor size and location, the breast size, reports of mammogram and patient’s ideas on breast preservation. In both the cases, lymph nodes are taken away. Some of the stage I and most of the stage II patients have to undergo chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy. This additional part of the treatment is known as adjuvant therapy, which is provided as prevention from further occurring (LaTour 131).
In case of stage III or locally advanced cancer, the tumor grows to have a diameter more than 2 inches and also affects the surrounding tissues of the breast (131). The patients is this stage, have to go through local and systemic both type of treatments to kill the tumor and to control the cancer growth, respectively. The systemic treatment might include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or both together.
The metastatic cancer or stage IV is implied by the situation, when the other organs of the body also got affected with cancer (ACS Breast). The stage IV patients go through the chemotherapy and hormonal therapy to reduce the size of the tumor. They also have to undergo radiation therapy for controlling the spreading all over the body. Researchers are trying to prove the effectiveness of the bone marrow transplant method for the patients in their stage IV.
Considering the negative factors of the breast cancer, there are effective ways to treat this deadly disease. Even White House has also taken a step to encourage on more research on this regard. President Bill Clinton has extended his financial support for the ongoing research projects and requested the insurance organizations for providing more coverage for mammograms. This support will definitely give rise to new hopes for finding new treatment methods for this disease, which might offer full recovery by the end of this century.