Did you know that one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime? If you or a loved one is currently battling breast cancer or at a very high risk for the disease, you may be wondering about the treatment options available to you. The good news is that there are many effective treatments for breast cancer that can help patients live longer or go into remission. Here are four of the most effective options for treating breast cancer.
Surgery is the first treatment that most breast cancer patients receive. A lumpectomy removes only the cancerous tissue, while a mastectomy removes the entire breast. Some patients opt to remove both breasts at the same time to reduce their risk of cancer reoccurrence. Many patients have breast reconstruction surgery during or after a mastectomy. Discuss your options with your surgeon if you plan to have reconstruction.
Targeted radiation is used to treat a variety of cancers by disrupting the ability of cancer cells to grow and divide, which eventually kills them. For breast cancer treatment, radiation can be used before surgery to shrink tumors or after surgery to kill off any remaining cancer cells. Radiation is also a common treatment for tumors that reoccur after other treatments.
Another cancer treatment that works by slowing the growth and division of cancer cells is chemotherapy. Instead of radiation, chemotherapy does this with a combination of medications that are toxic to cancer cells. Breast cancer patients typically undergo chemotherapy following surgery to ensure that all the cancer cells are gone and to reduce the risk of the cancer reoccurring.
Although medications alone can’t treat breast cancer, there are many medications available that can prevent the cancer from coming back, slow the growth of cancer cells and help patients live longer. Because many types of breast cancer are fed by hormones, some of the most effective medications for breast cancer work by inhibiting the body’s production of hormones or blocking those hormones from reaching cancer cells. Some people who are at a high risk for breast cancer can benefit from taking these medications as a preventative.
Remember, breast cancer is much easier to treat when caught early. Regular breast exams, mammograms and bloodwork can help detect cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage and improve a patient’s odds of survival and complete recovery. Next time you go in for a checkup, consider talking to your doctor about your personal breast cancer risk profile and recommended screenings.