Breast Cancer Treatments

Breast Cancer Treatments

Surgery is the backbone of therapy for breast cancer. The type of surgery is based on numerous factors that include the size and the location of tumour, type of tumour and the person health possible.
Cancer can be staged using the information from surgery and other possible test conducted. Staging is a classification that implies which treatment is better for the patient

Staging in breast cancer can be based on the size of the tumour and which part of the breast are involved and which lymph nodes are affected and also weather the cancer has spread to the other parts of the body.

There are four major types of treatments used in breast cancer that includes surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

Surgery – The aim of breast surgery is to remove breast cancer from the breast and test weather the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit. Surgery is not commonly used in the treatment of women with metastatic breast cancer. Surgery is recommended if this is your first diagnosis of the breast cancer.

Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy uses x-rays (radiation) to destroy cancer cells. It is given after surgery. Radiotherapy is recommended after breast surgery and could mean:

  • Less risk of breast cancer coming back in the same breast
  • Less need for further surgeries
  • Surviving breast cancer

Hormone therapy – Hormone therapy is used in addition to the above for treating your breast cancer. Hormone therapy can also be used in addition to chemotherapy.

The main aim of hormone therapy is to destroy cancer cells in the breast after surgery or radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This works by damaging cancer cells that are dividing. It can be used alone or in combination of the above the treatments depending upon the type of cancer.

Breast cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation and drugs (chemotherapy and hormonal therapy). Doctors may use one of these or a combination, depending on factors such as the type and location of the cancer, whether the disease has spread, and the patient’s overall health.

Drug Options Expand

Drugs are used to attack cancer cells that may have spread beyond the breast.

While doctors once believed that the spread of breast cancer could be controlled with extensive surgery, they now believe that cancer cells may break away from the primary tumor and spread through the bloodstream, even in the earliest stages of the disease. These cells cannot be felt by examination or seen on x-rays or other imaging methods, and they cause no symptoms. But they can establish new tumors in other organs or the bones. The goal of drug treatment, even if there’s no detectable cancer after surgery, is to kill these hidden cells. This treatment, known as adjuvant therapy, is not needed by every patient. Doctors will make recommendations regarding specific types of therapy based on the stage of the breast cancer.

FDA has approved several new drugs and new uses for older drugs in recent years that improve the chances of successfully treating breast cancer. These drugs include:

Herceptin – Herceptin is one of a new group of cancer drugs known as monoclonal anti-bodies.

It works by interfering with the ways in which breast cancer cells divide and grow. Some breast cancer cells divide and grow when a proteins that naturally occurs in the body, called as human epidermal growth factor contract itself with another protein called as HER2, that are found on the surface of some breast cancer cells.

Herceptin blocks this process by attaching itself to the HER2 protein so that the epidermal growth factor cannot reach the breast cancer cells. This further stops the cells from dividing and growing. Herceptin also works with the body’s immune cells to help destroy the cancer cells.

It only works in people who have high levels of the HER2 protein. There are several tests to check the available levels of HER2.

Nolvadex – Nolvadex is a drug to help treat when you are suffering from breast cancer. It reduces the risk of breast cancer found in women. It is a class of drugs known as antiestrogens. It blocks the activity of estrogen in female hormone, which is produced by the body in the breast. The length of treatment with this drug depends upon how long you have been taking Nolvadex and also how your body responds to this drugs.

Common uses for Nolvadex are:

To induce ovulation (egg production) in women who do not produce eggs but wish to become pregnant to treat breast pain and to decrease the size and pain of gynecomastia.
The side effects of Nolvadex include swelling of hands, feet and lower legs, loss of sexual desire, loss of appetite and constipation etc.