Breast Cancer: What To Know About Treatment (A Simple Summary)
In honour of breast cancer awareness month, we are breaking down the basics of breast cancer treatment to bring you the simple answers you need.
Thanks to medical advances, the treatments for breast cancer are constantly improving. Experts around the world are hard at work to try and improve the treatments available.
There are a number of options available to you, so it’s a good idea to chat with your doctor about these and which ones are best suited to your case.
Regardless of your treatment, the two main goals of treatment are:
- To get rid of as many cancer cells as possible
- To prevent cancer from ever coming back
Breast cancer treatment
The breast cancer treatment for your specific case will depend on a number of factors, these include:
- The stage and type of your cancer
- Your sensitivity to hormones
- Your overall health, age and personal preferences
Keep in mind that treatment for breast cancer is incredibly expensive as it often requires surgery and/or ongoing medication and therapy. This is why it pays to have healthcare cover in place such as health insurance or medical aid to help protect you from these costs.
The popular treatment options include:
● Radiation therapy
● Hormone therapy
● Biological therapy (also known as targeted drug therapy)
This will involve removing the cancerous tumour. Some types of surgery include:
This is when your doctor will remove the tumour and some healthy tissue that surrounds it. This helps to prevent cancer spreading and is often the preferred method of surgery for small tumour as the tumour can easily be separated from the surrounding tissue.
This is when your doctor removes all of your breast or part of it. It will include the removal of the ducts, fatty tissue, nipple, areola, lobules and some of your breast skin. In some cases, the doctor may also remove the lymph nodes and muscle in your chest wall.
A double mastectomy is when both of the breasts are removed.
Sentinel node biopsy
To determine whether cancer has spread to your lymph nodes (lymph nodes play an important role in your body's ability to fight off infections), your doctor will perform a surgery known as sentinel node biopsy.
These lymph nodes are the first lymph nodes that cancer cells spread to and are located under your armpits.
Once removed, the lymph nodes will be examined in a lab to find out if there are any cancer cells present.
If cancer cells are found, then you may need additional surgery to remove more lymph nodes from under your arm. This surgery is known as axillary lymph node dissection to prevent cancer from spreading further.
This is typically done a month after surgery.
Here, your doctor will use radiation to target the tumour with controlled doses of radiation to destroy any cancer cells that might still be in your body after surgery.
If there is a high risk of cancer recurring or spreading, then your doctor may prescribe cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs. If you have chemotherapy after surgery, then this is known as adjuvant chemotherapy.
In some cases, doctors may administer chemo before surgery in an attempt to shrink the tumour and make it easier to remove.
In most cases, chemotherapy is administered through a drip at a hospital or you may be given tablets to take at home.
Chemotherapy works by killing the cancer cells and stopping them from growing. It is also known to stop the production of oestrogen in the body, oestrogen is a hormone known to encourage cancer cell growth in some breast cancers.
Chemo has a number of adverse side effects, the most common of these is hair loss as chemotherapy can also kill the healthy cells in your body that divide and grow quickly, such as the cells in your intestines and your hair cells.
Hormone blocking therapy
Some forms of breast cancers are stimulated by the hormones progesterone or oestrogen, which are both naturally found in our bodies.
These kinds of cancer are referred to as hormone receptor-positive cancers. Hormone therapy works by lowering these hormone levels in your body or preventing their effects.
Hormone therapy is typically administered after chemo or surgery or it is sometimes given before surgery to help shrink a tumour and make its removal easier.
Targeted therapy (biological therapy)
Some forms of breast cancer are stimulated by a protein in your body known as HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2). These forms of cancer are known as HER2-positive.
This form of therapy works by inhibiting the effects of HER2 and helps your immune system to fight off cancerous cells.
Your outlook for breast cancer
Your outlook will depend on your staging. This is why early breast cancer detection and treatment will lead to a more positive outlook.
While you’re here, have a look at this awesome and easy-to-read article on how to self-examine your breasts.
Yours in hassle-free health insurance,