Today, breast cancer treatment has two primary goals:
1. Rid the patient’s body of the cancer
2. Prevent the disease from returning
First though, an oncologist will need to determine what type of treatment would be most effective for their patient. They will make this decision based on the size of their patient’s tumor, as well as the extent to which the breast cancer has spread into the lymph nodes and/or throughout other areas of their body (i.e. determining the stage of the patient’s breast cancer).
Several other factors will also play a key role in this decision process such as the patient’s age, menstrual status, other underlying health issues, personal preferences, and the presence of endocrine receptors and the HER2 oncogene.
Surgical Options for Breast Cancer
In many cases, surgery will be the first line of attack against the patient’s breast cancer. However, there are a number of different surgical options for breast cancer patients. It is up to the patient to work with their doctor to determine the type of surgery that would be the best for them based on their personal preferences and the current stage of their cancer.
In the past, surgery for breast cancer patients involved removing the whole breast along with part of the chest wall. This type of surgery was obviously very intensive on the body, and the recovery time was lengthy. Nowadays, there are breast conserving surgeries available for breast cancer patients. As the name suggests, this is an operation which will remove the cancer without having to remove the whole breast.
Radiation Therapy is a form of cancer treatment which utilizes high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation in order to destroy cancer cells or prevent them from growing further. There are two types of radiation therapy available to breast cancer patients: Internal radiation therapy will use these radioactive substances which are sealed in seeds, needles, wires, or catheters. Once the substance is sealed in, it will be placed directly into or close to the patient’s cancer.
External radiation therapy uses a machine which remains outside of the patient’s body and shoots radiation toward the cancer. As with surgery, the type of radiation therapy administered depends on the type and stage of the breast cancer present.
This is a form of cancer treatment which uses drugs in order to prohibit further growth of the cancer cells. These drugs will either kill the cancer cells or prevent them from dividing further. If chemotherapy is administered orally or intravenously, the drugs will end up in the patient’s bloodstream where they can reach cancer cells located throughout the entire body (i.e. systemic chemotherapy).
On the other hand, the chemotherapy can be applied directly to the affected organ, cerebrospinal fluid, or body cavity where it will attack the cancer cells located in that area (i.e. regional chemotherapy). Again, the type of chemotherapy administered depends on the type and stage of the breast cancer.
This form of breast cancer treatment works by removing or prohibiting hormones which can stop cancer cells from growing. Hormones are produced by these glands in the body, and then they are circulated through the body in the bloodstream. Research has shown scientists that certain hormones are capable of inducing certain cancers to grow.
There are tests available to determine if the cancer cells possess any receptors where hormones can attach themselves. In fact, estrogen is one of those hormones which can make some types of breast cancer grow, and this is a hormone which is mainly produced by the ovaries. The type of treatment which is used to stop the ovaries from producing estrogen is known as ovarian ablation.
Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
Currently, there are a number of ongoing breast cancer clinical trials which are testing experimental forms of therapy for breast cancer patients. These clinical trials are very important, because many of the best forms of treatment and diagnosis used today were first tested in these studies. In fact, taking part in one of these breast cancer clinical trials may be the best treatment option available for some patients.
Patients who do choose to take part in a clinical trial could receive a variation of the standard forms of treatment, or they could be among the first to receive a new form of therapy. Even when these clinical studies do not produce a new form of breast cancer treatment, medical researchers are often finding answers to important questions which will help improve the types of therapies that we already have. So, these participants are actually playing a very vital role in the advancement of breast cancer treatment and prevention.
Alternative Treatments for Breast Cancer
There are some alternative therapies and treatments available for breast cancer patients, and some can even help patients to cope with the side-effects of their disease when they are combined with their traditional care. However, it is important to remember that the safety and efficacy of these alternative treatments have not been tested in clinical trials.
It can be easy to see why many breast cancer patients would turn to alternative forms of therapy that offer less adverse side effects than some of the more traditional forms of treatment. Medical treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can take a very harsh toll on the patient’s body. Still, people need to mindful that these alternative therapies could also have some harmful or even life-threatening side effects.
Diet and Exercise
Many of the alternative forms of cancer treatment are actually best served as complimentary forms of therapy for a breast cancer treatment. Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise are two of the most crucial aspects of complimentary breast cancer treatment.
Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer may find themselves at a higher risk of obesity, especially if they are post-menopause with estrogen-receptor-positive cancer. For this reason, proper nutrition and increased physical activity can be the perfect complement to the more traditional breast cancer treatments.