Treatment for breast cancer is based on many different factors, including the type and stage of the cancer, whether the cancer overproduces a gene called HER2/neu and whether the cancer is sensitive to certain hormones.
Generally, treatments can include:
* The use of chemotherapy and chemotherapeutical medicines (to kill cancer cells)
* The use of radiation therapy (to destroy cancerous tissue)
* Surgery to remove cancerous tissue. Surgery could include a lumpectomy (to remove a breast lump), or a mastectomy (to remove all or part of the breast).
There are some alternative treatments that can be used, including:
* Hormonal therapy designed to block certain cancer-fueling hormones. An example of this type of therapy is the drug tamoxifen, which blocks the effects of estrogen which has been proven to help breast cancer cells survive and grow. Many woman who have estrogen-sensitive breast cancer benefit from this particular drug. A newer class of medicines, known as aromatase inhibitors such as examestane, are also used with good results.
* Targeted therapy designed to interfere with cancer cell growth and cancer cell function. This is a newer type of cancer treatment, which uses specialized anti-cancer drugs that identy certain cell changes that can lead to cancer. As such, this type of therapy is also known as biologic therapy. One such anti-cancer drug is trastuzumab, which coupled with chemotherapy has been proven to work better than chemotherapy alone. As well, it’s shown that this combination cuts the risk of recurring cancer by up to 50%.
Cancer treatment can either be local or systemic.
* With local treatments, only the area of the disease is treated. Examples of local treatments include radiation and surgery.
* Systemic treatments affect the whole body. Chemotherapy falls under this category.
More often than not, women receive a combination of different treatments, again depending on the cancer’s stage. Women with stage I, II or III breast cancer would typically have a different treatment regime than women in stage IV (which can’t be cured).
The key in surviving this terrible ordeal is catching it as early as possible. There is no case of breast cancer that cannot be cured when caught early enough. We are asking every person who reads this to tell 10 women they are concerned for them and ask them if they do regular self exams to protect their health and family. If we begin to care for one another and spread the word to everyone we know there will soon be nobody left to tell. That is when we know we have done our job successfully, when every single woman does self exams early and regularly. It is only then that we will see the dramatic decline in terminal breast cancer patients that we so desperately need.