If you find out you have breast cancer, you should discuss your treatment options with your physician. Breast cancer treatment will vary depending on the stage and location of the cancer.
Surgery is the main treatment for breast cancer. This is often followed by radiation therapy to decrease the risk of cancer returning in the breast, chest wall and/or lymph nodes.
Lumpectomy, or partial mastectomy, is the surgical removal of the cancerous tissue along with a small rim of surrounding healthy breast tissue. This type of breast conserving surgery is often followed by radiation therapy.
Mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast. Sometimes, breast reconstruction can be performed after mastectomy. While less common, radiation is sometimes recommended after mastectomy as well.
A select number of lymph nodes near the breast may be removed during surgery to determine if they contain tumor cells. If one or more of the lymph nodes contain tumor cells, the removal of additional lymph nodes may be recommended. An examination of the lymph nodes is typically performed with lumpectomy or mastectomy for invasive (DCIS) disease.
Both mastectomy and breast conserving therapy (surgery and radiation) can be equally effective approaches in curing breast cancer. Ask your surgeon and radiation oncologist about the risks and benefits of both options.
Radiation Therapy after surgery can decrease the chance of cancer returning in the breast and improve survival. Radiation therapy involves delivering focused radiation to the breast or chest wall, and sometimes the lymph nodes, to treat cancer cells not detected or removed by the surgery. Radiation therapy kills cancer cells by destroying their ability to multiply.
Medical Therapy is often recommended to improve cure rates or prevent a new breast cancer from developing. A medical oncologist will evaluate you and determine what medications may be most helpful in accomplishing those goals.
Chemotherapy has the ability to destroy cancer cells. Often, two or three different types of drugs may be combined to get the best outcome. While the dose and schedule for treatment varies, chemotherapy is usually delivered every two to three weeks over a few months. Sometimes this treatment is given before surgery (called neoadjuvant therapy).
Hormonal therapy can block the effects of the female hormone, estrogen, in the body. Estrogen has been shown in some cases to cause your tumor to grow. Usually taken as a daily pill, hormonal therapy may be started during or after radiation therapy is completed. While the dose of the pill may change depending on the type of pill prescribed, this pill is usually taken daily for several years.
Immunotherapy works by either stimulating your immune system to attack cancer cells or providing your immune system with what it needs, such as antibodies, to fight cancer.
Ask your medical oncologist what medications may be best for you.