Breast cancer treatment overview: Breast cancer treatment requires a multidisciplinary team management consisting of surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, social workers, counsellors, physical assistants, etc. The pathology and behaviour of breast cancer affects the treatment plan. What are the treatment options for breast cancer? Treatment options depend on the type of the cancer, its stage, grade, genetic markers, overall health of the patient, presence of any mutation and menopausal status of the patient. Treatment involves surgical removal of breast cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy.
1. Surgery: Surgery is a good option for small and early stage breast cancers. Surgical options include lumpectomy, which is the removal of cancer along with small cancer free healthy tissue around it or mastectomy in which entire breast is removed. Lymph node biopsy or dissection is also done along with surgery to determine the spread of cancer and further action plan. Following mastectomy, reconstructive surgeries are done to create a breast form. They may include silicone breast implants or tissue flap procedures.
2. Radiotherapy: Radiotherapy uses high energy x-ray or other particles to kill the cancer cells. It can be given before or after the surgery and is given in cycles for a few weeks.
3. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses powerful medicines which help to destroy the cancer cells. It is given in cycles for a few weeks and usually involves a combination of two or more drugs. In some cases it is given before the surgery to shrink the cancer size. It is helpful in early stage or advanced stage breast cancer to remove left out cancer cells following surgery or destroy the cancer cells as much as possible after surgery.
4. Hormonal therapy or endocrine therapy: It is helpful in breast cancer cases which are positive for estrogen or progesterone receptors. Hormonal therapy is used for both early stage and metastatic breast cancer. Medicines such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors are used to inhibit the cancer growth, which is activated by hormones.
5. Targeted therapy: It works against the cancer proteins, genes or tissue environment that promotes the cancer growth. Also, called as biological therapy, it changes the process in the cell cycle. Therapy is active against particular receptors for proteins present in the cancer cells. They help to control or slow the cancer growth.
What is the success rate of breast cancer treatment?
Breast cancer treatment success largely depends on the stage of breast cancer. Early stage breast cancer is highly treatable, having a very high success rate with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The success rate in different stages of breast cancer treatment:
Stage 1 100%
Stage 2 93%
Stage 3 72%
Stage 4 22 %
What are the tests required? The tests required before the treatment:
How much time is required? The patient needs to stay in the hospital for about 3 days or so and the procedure takes about 2-3 hours.
What is the cost of the procedure? The procedure of breast cancer wouldcost around 4000 USD.
What type of anesthesia will be given? Surgery is done under general anesthesia
What should be cared? Good after care is require especially following mastectomy as patient may have psychological effects of breast removal. Regular follow up visits are required to determine the success and recurrence of breast cancer. Psychological support needs to be provided to the patient in case of total mastectomy.