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What are the treatment options for breast cancer

Dr. Sadaf Ishaque

3 min read

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In this day and age, the treatment options for breast cancer are more than ever before, designed to treat every stage of it. The treatment for breast cancer is dependent on the stage and grade of the tumor, as well as the type of breast cancer. Read on to know more about the treatment for breast cancer:

How to choose the right treatment?

Each patient is different and there is no one size fits all type of regiment that every breast cancer patient must go through. Rather, each treatment procedure is tailored according to multiple factors.

Before finding the best mode of treatment, you doctor will want to know about the type of cancer you have. There are multiple types of breast cancer, with involvement of different parts of the breast, like the lobules, ducts or the stromal tissue. Depending on the region involved, your doctor will suggest the therapy that works best for that type of cancer.

Additionally, it matters greatly what is the stage of the disease. Stage of cancer ranges from 0 to 4, and is dependent on the size of tumor, number of lymph glands involved, and involvement of other parts of the body. The higher the stage of the tumor, the more difficult it is to treat.

Other things to keep in mind before treatment include your age, health status, and the option you prefer. In most cases, there are chances that the cancer may come back, and your doctor will suggest you the mode of treatment that will decrease the chances of that happening.

What are the treatment options?

Surgery:

Commonly, treatment for breast cancer begins with resection of the tumor through surgery. In stage 0, or the localized type of tumor, lumpectomy is performed i.e. the removal of only the cancerous lump from the breast, sparing the rest of the cancer-free area. This is usually a small procedure and you can go home shortly afterward. The idea of lumpectomy is to remove the tumor-stricken cells and prevent the spread of these cancer cells. Lumpectomy is usually followed by radiation therapy.

Mastectomy or surgical removal of breast is done if the disease is spread to the whole breast. Part of the lymph nodes of the axillary region (armpit) are also removed as part of total mastectomy, as they are the first lymph nodes where the cancer cells usually travel. Mastectomy is usually followed by reconstruction surgery of the breast set at a later date, and chemo/radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy:

This treatment for breast cancer uses x-rays of high energy to kill the cancer cells and keep them from coming back. The two types of radiation therapies include: external radiation therapy, and internal radiation therapy. The latter uses radioactive substance sealed in needles or catheters near or into the cancer. In external therapy, a machine outside the body is used to send radiation to the tumor. Breast cancer is usually treated by external radiation.
Even for stage 0 cancer, radiation therapy is recommended post lumpectomy to keep the cancer cells at bay and prevent recurrence.

Chemotherapy

This treatment for breast cancer relies on drugs to kills the cancerous cells. Chemo drugs include both oral as well as injectable drugs. Chemo can be used after surgical resection of the tumor to kill the remaining cells, or sometimes used before surgery to help shrink the size of the tumor. Side effects of chemotherapy are numerous as they are also targeting the normal healthy cells.

Hormonal therapy

Breast cancer usually have receptors for hormones—like estrogen, which help the tumors to become large. If your tumor responds to hormones, then blocking the hormone receptors is helpful in shrinking the size of the tumor. Hormonal therapy with anti-estrogens like tamoxifen is given to patients with localized breast cancer, and sometimes to even those with metastatic disease.
Tamoxifen comes with its own side-effect profile and can increase the chances of endometrial cancer. Therefore, women receiving tamoxifen should have regular pelvic exams to look for signs of cancer, and report signs like extra-menstrual bleeding, discharge and pain to the doctor.

Immunotherapy

One of the experimental treatments for breast cancer is immunotherapy. This promising therapy has improved clinical outcomes for patients with breast cancer. The side-effect profile of immunotherapeutic agents is far less than chemotherapeutic drugs. Moreover, the chances of resistance are lesser with these agents.

The idea behind immunotherapy is to use the natural defenses of the body to fight off the cancer cells. In the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, pembrolizumab has proved beneficial; this is an immune check-point inhibitor which means it blocks the specific antibodies that make it difficult for the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.

Pain management

For metastatic disease, or stage 4, the cancer can cause pain in the bones, muscles and discomfort around the liver. Pain management should be discussed with your doctor, as part of the treatment for breast cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, then you can consult a top breast surgeon to aid you. Book an appointment with top breast surgeon in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT professional for your concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Sadaf Ishaque - Author DR.SADAF ISHAQUE is a fellowship trained Breast & General surgeon who joined shalamar medical and dental college in 2015.Dr.Sadaf Ishaque practices at chugtai centre ,horizon hospital and farooq hospitals .she is heading onestop breast clinic at chugtai jail road centre . She specializes in all aspects of breast health and the surgical management of complex breast diseases. She sees women with newly diagnosed or a previous history of breast cancer, benign breast masses and cysts, abnormal imaging, fibrocystic breast disease, those with genetic susceptibility or at high risk for breast cancer, and many others. Her extensive knowledge of novel and up-to-date treatment modalities for breast cancer is an asset to her practice and her patients. In addition, her technical skills, encompassing nipple-sparing mastectomy, oncoplastic surgery, sentinel lymph node biopsy, and other minimally invasive techniques leads to outstanding clinical and aesthetic outcomes for patients.
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