Treating Breast Cancer
Have you recently been diagnosed with breast cancer? If you don’t already, you will soon have lots of questions about your future and the next steps. Before we discuss the stages of breast cancer and what they mean, the general treatments for breast cancer are described below:
Surgical options for all stages of breast cancer are lumpectomy (also called a partial mastectomy) and mastectomy. Which is right for you is best determined by you and your surgeon together. Your surgeon will have looked at your mammogram and/or other imaging and your breast size, and this will determine if the breast can be conserved with a lumpectomy or if a mastectomy (removal of the breast) will be required to remove all of the tumor. If the breast can be conserved, it may still be a personal choice to have a mastectomy and again, your surgeon can help guide you through this.
For all stages of breast cancer, this involves removing the non-invasive and/or invasive breast cancer from the breast, leaving the rest of it in place. This is a good option if the tumor is small and the breast is large enough to remove the tumor without making much of a defect and the patient is willing to have radiation therapy (in most cases).
This involves removal of the breast tissue, realizing that all but about 1% of the breast tissue is removed. This can be done with or without reconstruction, or “rebuilding” of the breast. This is a good option for those with large tumors, especially with a small breast size, certain types of breast cancer or even personal decision.
These are things other than surgery that are used to treat breast cancer.
This is generally recommended after a lumpectomy and occasionally after a mastectomy to reduce the risk of recurrence of breast cancer, or having it come back in the breast, chest wall or lymph nodes.
Anti-hormonal treatments, also called anti-estrogen treatment or endocrine therapy, are oral medications that reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, typically by 50%. There are two major types of anti-estrogen medications, each with their own side effects and risk factors, but each very effective.
Chemotherapy is given for certain types of breast cancer, sometimes even before surgery (called neoadjuvant chemotherapy), but never for Stage 0 or pure non-invasive breast cancer.
Anti-HER2 medications are targeted therapies given only to patients with tumors that express HER2 receptors. It can be given before or after surgery and is typically given over a 1 year period.
Every individual person’s breast cancer is unique and the treatment decisions are very personal. You will be guided through the decision-making process by your doctor. Initial treatment of your breast cancer will be determined by your “clinical stage”. Please see my article about breast cancer staging.
Where to go for treatment of breast cancer…
If you live in Tennessee and suspect you may have breast cancer or have already received that diagnosis, contact Lindsay Keith, M.D. for professional,caring guidance to treat it. She is affiliated with St. Thomas Medical Partners- Murfreesboro Surgical Specialists, and you can reach her by phone at (615) 900-2621.