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Breast Cancer Treatment Facts
When breast cancer is
detected at an early stage of development, a number of effective
treatment options are available. A woman and her physician will choose
the treatment that is right for her, based on the location and extent
of the cancer, her age and preferences, and the risks and benefits of
each treatment. The basic treatment choices for breast cancer are
surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Local treatments such as
breast surgery and radiation therapy are focused on the breast itself
to remove or destroy the cancer cells confined to the breast. Systemic
treatments, such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, aim to destroy
the cancer cells that may have spread throughout the body.
Surgery: Surgery has
an important role in breast cancer treatment. Most women can choose
between breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy plus radiation) or
removal of the breast (mastectomy). Clinical trials have proven that
both options provide the same long-term survival rates for most types
of early stage breast cancer.
removes a small tumor and a margin of normal tissue around the tumor.
The surgeon also removes some of the lymph nodes under the arm to find
out if the cancer has spread. Lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy
to destroy and remaining cancer cells is the standard care. A clinical
trial on lumpectomy and radiation is currently underway.
- Modified Radical
Mastectomy: is surgery to remove the entire breast, some of the
lymph nodes under the arm and the lining over the chest muscles. It
may be appropriate when the breast tumor is large or if cancer is
found in more than one part of the breast.
- Radical Mastectomy:
involves removal of the breast, chest muscles and all lymph nodes
under the arm. It was the standard treatment many years ago, but it us
use now only when a tumor has spread to the chest muscles.
- Radiation: therapy
uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Is is usually used
after lumpectomy to destroy and cancer cells that still may remain in
the breast after surgery. It is sometimes used to shrink tumors before
- Chemotherapy: uses
drugs, usually a combination of drugs, that travel through the body to
slow the growth of cancer cells or kill them.
- Hormonal Therapy:
prevents cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. If
a breast tumor relies on the body's natural hormones to grow, it is
described as estrogen-positive or progesterone-positive. This means
that any cancer cells that remain after surgery may continue to grow
when these hormones are present in the body. Hormonal therapy can
reduce the amount of the body's natural hormones or block the hormones
from reaching any remaining cells.
Information on this page has been, in
large part, reproduced, with permission, from
NBCAM (supported by
an unrestricted educational grant from AstraZeneca Healthcare