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Breast Cancer Treatment: Medicine

Overview

There are a broad number of drug and other medical treatments that are used to reduce or eliminate breast tumors, and combat the spread of the cancer. Some treatments are used by themselves, while other protocols incorporate multiple treatments together, designed to improve the results.

Depending on the stage, the location, and the type of tumor, you may be a candidate for various forms of surgery. In the early stages of breast cancer, breast-conserving surgeries (surgeries that remove only a portion of the breast) may be used. For early or later stages of breast cancer, or as a preventive measure, mastectomy (removal of the breast) may be performed instead.

Breast Conserving Surgeries:

Lumpectomy, wide excision, segmentectomy, and partial mastectomy are known as breast-conserving surgeries. Only the malignant area and a small portion of the surrounding healthy tissue are removed. Sometimes, lymph nodes under the arm are also removed (axillary dissection). This procedure is almost always followed by a course of radiation therapy.

Today, breast-conserving surgeries are the preferred type of surgery for eligible women in the early stages of cancer. Studies have shown that breast-conserving surgeries combined with radiation therapy are just as effective as mastectomy in the early stages of breast cancer. However, not all women with stage I or II breast cancer are eligible for this type of surgery.

Conditions that might make you ineligible for this procedure include:

  • Multiple tumors in different areas of the breast (multicentric tumors)
  • One tumor spread throughout the breast (diffuse tumor)
  • Tumor located directly beneath the nipple
  • A tumor that is large in relation to breast size
  • History of scleroderma, systemic lupus, or dermatopolymyositis
  • Current pregnancy in the first or second trimester (The radiation used with breast-conserving surgery can injure a fetus.)
  • Previous high-dose radiation therapy to the affected breast

Treatments

Effect of Herceptin on Breast Cancer

Advanced breast cancer affects approximately 30% of the 180,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. The more aggressive form is characterized by an overabundance of a protein known...

Read more about Breast Cancer and Herceptin.

Effect of Lumpectomy on Breast Cancer

Today, breast-conserving surgeries are the preferred type of surgery for eligible women in the early stages of cancer. Studies have shown that breast-conserving surgeries combined with radiation...

Read more about Breast Cancer and Lumpectomy.

Effect of Mastectomy on Breast Cancer

Total Mastectomy (Modified Radical Mastectomy) A total mastectomy involves the removal of the entire breast. Some lymph nodes from under the arm are also removed. Radiation therapy may or may not...

Read more about Breast Cancer and Mastectomy.

Effect of Radiation Therapy—External on Breast Cancer

Radiation therapy can be given to treat cancer at its initial site or once it has spread. In some cases, once cancer has spread, radiation is no longer curative. However, the treatments can help...

Read more about Breast Cancer and Radiation.

Effect of Chemotherapy on Breast Cancer

The type of chemotherapy you receive will depend on the type and stage of your cancer. New combinations of chemotherapy are constantly being designed as new information is discovered. The most common...

Read more about Breast Cancer and Chemotherapy.

References

Breast cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov . Accessed January 27, 2006.

Breast cancer. Womens' Health.gov website. Available at: http://www.4woman.gov . Accessed January 27, 2006.

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation website. Available at: http://www.komen.org . Accessed January 31, 2006.

Way LW, Doherty GM. Current Surgical Diagnosis and Treatment . 10th ed. Appleton and Lange; 1994.

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