Fighting Breast Cancer: The Latest Treatment Techniques
Women diagnosed with breast cancer today have more treatment options available to them than ever before. And scientists continue to make advancements. Coupled with better screening tests that help with diagnosis, newer treatments have helped to reduce the risk of dying from this disease over the last 30-plus years. Below are some of the latest ways doctors are bringing the fight to breast cancer.
New surgical options
Most women who have breast cancer will undergo surgery to remove the tumor. Surgery can include removing part or all of the breast. One new breast-conserving technique is oncoplastic surgery. It combines surgery and plastic surgery during the same procedure to remove cancer and then reshape the breast. Such newer reconstruction techniques are giving women more surgical choices.
Refined radiation therapy
Using high-energy X-rays, radiation therapy kills or limits the growth of cancer cells. It's often used after surgery to prevent cancer from returning. Typically, radiation is given on a daily basis for several weeks. But doctors have been trying newer techniques that give higher doses over a shorter period. Some techniques even refine how the radiation is directed, focusing more on the tumor and less on healthy tissue. Shorter, more-focused regimens offer convenience for patients. To date, studies suggest they may work as effectively as standard radiation.
Like radiation therapy, chemotherapy is often used after surgery to help stop cancer from coming back. Patients receive these drugs in cycles followed by a recovery period. Scientists are constantly studying new chemotherapy drugs to see how they work against certain types of breast cancer. They are also trying to figure out the most effective combinations of these drugs. Newer approaches include giving patients certain drugs over a shorter time frame. This technique may increase survival.
Extended hormone therapy
Hormone therapy removes or blocks the production of estrogen, which may cause breast cancer to grow. Such therapies include tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. Tamoxifen is one of the most common hormone drugs. It's been shown to prevent breast cancer from returning. Doctors recommend that patients take it for up to five years after initial treatment. Recent research suggests, though, patients may benefit even more by taking it for 10 years.
Tougher targeted therapies
One of the latest breakthroughs in breast cancer treatment is targeted therapies. They target the changes in genes caused by cancer. For instance, drugs like trastuzumab focus on a protein called HER2. One of the newest kinds of targeted therapy is PARP inhibitors. They work by blocking DNA repair, killing cancer cells. PARP inhibitors appear to be especially effective against cancers that have spread throughout the body.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, the treatment options can be overwhelming. Talking with your doctor can help you choose the best treatment, or combination of treatments, for your specific cancer. Check out this article for questions to ask your doctor.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
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American Cancer Society - Treating Breast Cancer
National Cancer Institute - Treatment Option Overview