Three treatment options for breast cancer patients – Reading Eagle
Millions of women around the world are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Such a diagnosis is never welcome, but women should know that survival rates have improved dramatically over the past few decades. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that at the end of 2020, nearly 8 million women were living well despite having been diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in the previous half-decade. .
One of the reasons for improved survival rates is the effectiveness of various treatments. The National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. notes that doctors have a variety of options for treating breast cancer and often develop treatment plans that include a combination of treatments. Although no one wants to imagine being diagnosed with breast cancer, understanding the potential treatments for the disease can help women and their families be better prepared should that day ever come.
Here are three treatment options that doctors can discuss with women as they begin to find ways to beat the condition.
Chemotherapy is used to treat various cancers, including breast cancer. Chemotherapy uses various drugs to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth. Drugs given during chemotherapy are called cytotoxic drugs and can be given by mouth or intravenously. The NBCF notes that chemotherapy is available to most patients, although doctors consider a host of variables before deciding whether chemotherapy is right for a given patient. These variables include tumor type, grade, and size.
During radiation therapy treatments, high-energy rays are used to kill cancer cells. Only cells in the part of the body that is being treated with radiation are affected, so patients do not have to worry about other parts of their body being affected by the radiation. The NBCF reports that patients diagnosed with stage 0 (DCIS) and most diagnosed with stage 1 or greater invasive cancer can expect doctors to prescribe radiation therapy. Women who have had a lumpectomy are also likely to be prescribed radiation therapy. Two main types of radiation are generally considered for breast cancer patients. External radiation therapy for breast cancer delivers cancer-fighting rays through a large machine. Internal radiation therapy for breast cancer is a newer treatment that injects cancer-fighting radiation treatments into the affected area.
3. Targeted therapy
The NBCF reports that targeted therapy is commonly used in combination with traditional chemotherapy. Targeted therapy attacks specific breast cancer cells without harming normal cells, which is why it tends to produce less severe side effects than chemotherapy treatments. Targeted therapy uses drugs to block the growth of cancer cells in very specific ways. One example cited by the NBCF is the drug Trastuzumab, or Herceptin, which is given to women whose breast tumors contain too much of the abnormal HER2 protein. Although the side effects of targeted therapies tend to be less severe, women may still experience problems like fever and chills, nausea, headaches, and other symptoms after the drugs are administered.
The expansion of breast cancer treatments has done much to improve patient survival rates. Women diagnosed with the disease are encouraged to take an active role in their treatments and to ask any questions they may have before, during and after treatment.