What Are My Treatment Options for Breast Cancer?

What Are My Treatment Options for Breast Cancer?

By Breast Cancer Connect Staff Published at January 1, 2013 Views 6,072 Likes 1

There are many different options available for treating breast cancer. Finding the right treatment plan for you depends on a number of factors, including tumor size, stage of the cancer, and the presence of certain genes and hormones.

Main Types of Breast Cancer Treatment

The two main goals of treatment are to rid the body of cancer as completely as possible and to keep it from coming back. Cancer therapies are classified as either local or systemic. Local treatments focus mainly on the areas of the body where the cancer is found, such as the breast and nearby lymph nodes. Systemic treatments concentrate on destroying cancer cells throughout the entire body.

Local Treatments

Local therapies include surgery and radiation.
Surgery: Two types of surgery are used to remove cancerous tissue. In a lumpectomy, the lump and sometimes surrounding tissue is taken out of breast. A mastectomy removes all or part of the breast and any affected neighboring areas.
Radiation: One of the most common treatments for cancer, this therapy relies on high-energy radiation waves to kill cancer cells and stop them from multiplying. It’s often used after surgery to lower the risk of cancer returning. Radiation treatments are usually given in small daily doses for several days to weeks.

Systemic Treatments

Systemic treatments include chemo, hormone and biologic therapies. These therapies are often used after local treatments to destroy any undetected cancer cells still lurking in the body.
Chemotherapy: Chemo uses a combination of drugs, given orally or intravenously, to slow the rapid growth of cancer cells and destroy them. The medication travels through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells that may have spread throughout the body. Usually given in cycles followed by a recovery period, chemotherapy can take several months up to a year, depending on the medications used.
Hormone therapy: Some breast cancers depend on female hormones, such as estrogen, to grow. This treatment uses drugs to block these naturally occurring hormones and fight cancer cell growth. Women with tumors containing estrogen receptors (called ER-positive) are more likely to respond to hormone treatment than those who are ER-negative.
Targeted or biologic therapy: As researchers learn more about the genetic changes that occur with cancer, they have developed new drugs that target these specific changes. These drugs attack and block diseased cells, but leave the normal, healthy cells alone. Because they don’t work in the same way as standard chemo drugs, they often bring less severe side effects.

Often, a combination of therapies is used to fight breast cancer. Talk with your oncologist about the pros and cons as well as potential side effects of each treatment option to decide the best route for you.

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