Breast Cancer Treatment Options
With improvements in breast cancer treatments and breast cancer detection survival rates are continuing to improve. In the past, treatment options would have been restricted to a very few but excellent research in recent years has led to advancements in the number of treatments available and improvements in existing treatment methods.
The various options available for breast cancer sufferers include:
o surgery, which can be mastectomy, lumpectomy and lymph node dissection,
o Hormone therapy
o And of course, there are alternative therapies to consider
Surgical practices have improved in recent times and it’s often possible to be far more precise nowadays when performing surgery, enabling a surgeon to get direct to the source of the disease, and causing far less damage to the surrounding area. Sometimes a lumpectomy can be performed which removes the cancerous lump without removing the entire breast. This would usually only be performed if the lump is very small and the surgeons don’t think the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes.
If there is some concern about the size or spread of the cancer then a mastectomy may be performed. This removes the entire affected breast. Some women may request that both breasts are removed even though one is completely healthy. The removal of the healthy breast is known as a prophylactic mastectomy.
Usually in cases of invasive breast cancer a second procedure is carried out at the same time as the mastectomy or lumpectomy and this is known as lymph node dissection. This involves extending the breast incision to the armpit area, or in the case of a lumpectomy making a small incision, and removing part or all of the lymph nodes to establish whether cancer has invaded these. This will help the surgeon and oncologist decide on the best treatment plan
Radiation therapy is usually carried out a little while after surgery when the patient’s skin has recovered. During therapy high levels of radiation are sent directly to the cancer cells. Radiation also targets cells that may have been left behind during surgery, this is often referred to as “mopping up” stray cancer cells. Radiation therapy is similar to having an xray taken although there can be some side effects due to the high levels of radiation being given. Soreness of the skin and “sunburn” can happen.
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to treat the disease. Because it is administered through the blood stream is very effective as it acts on the rapidly dividing cancer cells. Unfortunately the chemicals don’t differentiate between sick and healthy cells so the doses need to be very exact and there are unpleasant side effects such as nausea, hair loss, mouth and skin ulcers.
No discussion of breast cancer treatment can afford not to mention that there are a number of alternative therapies available such as yoga and acupuncture. It’s impossible to say whether these treatments are effective as there isn’t enough research available however they are often found to ease the discomfort associated with the conventional treatments so may be worth considering in conjunction with your treatment plan. Always discuss this with your surgeon or oncologist before embarking on any alternative therapy.
Every breast cancer patient is different and so every breast cancer treatment plan will differ slightly from the next. The most suitable treatment plan for each individual will be arrived at after consultation between your breast cancer team and yourself.
Rita was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31. The single parent of a 7 year old daughter she came to fully understand the concerns and issues associated with breast cancer and it’s treatment.
Breast Cancer Treatment Options