Breast Cancer is the cancer that develops in the breast tissues mostly in the inner lining of milk ducts or in the lobules which supply milk to the ducts. Depending on the place of origination, they are known as ductal carcinoma, if originated in the milk ducts or lobular carcinoma when originated in the lobules. Breast cancers are also classified as hormone-positive or a hormone-negative cancer which is decided based on their sensitivity to hormones like progesterone and estrogen.
The options available for breast cancer treatment depend on the type of breast cancer and the staging results. Staging is the process in which the disease spread and its progressive extend is determined. Though it is the most common non-skin type of cancer in women and is considered one of the fatal types of cancer, there are many advanced breast cancer treatment options which can help cure this disease if detected early.
Breast Cancer Treatment Plan
Once the cancer has been diagnosed, the doctors evaluate the pathology report and form a plan that would suit the type of cancer and the stage to which the disease has progressed. Treatment modes aim at reducing the spread of the disease, destruction of the diseased cells and reduction of chances for re-occurrence in future. The doctors would choose a single or a set of treatment options based on the patient’s medical conditions which they may evaluate periodically.
Types of Breast cancer treatment methods
The treatments available are in general classified as standard methods and clinical trial methods. Standard methods are those that are currently practised for the cure of breast cancer while clinical trials are those that are currently being tested for more efficient results. The standard methods of breast cancer treatment include surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and targeted therapy.
Surgical method of Breast Cancer Treatment
Surgery is one potential option for removing the cancerous cells from the body. The entire breast or a partial portion of the breast is removed depending on the level of spread and the stage to which the disease has progressed. Based on the level of operation that is required to remove the cancerous cells, the surgeries are differentiated into three types as below.
* Breast-conserving Surgery – This is an operation where only the portion of the breast that contains the cancer is removed and not the breast itself. If the surgery requires removal of just the tumor in the breast and a little amount of tissue, it is known as Lumpectomy or is known as Partial mastectomy if it includes removal of partial amount of the breast along with a considerable amount of normal tissues. These kinds of surgeries may also include removal of lymph nodes under the arm which are used for the purpose of biopsy. Such dissection done either along with the surgery or after it is known as lymph node dissection.
* Total Mastectomy – This kind of surgery targets on removing the whole breast which is infected with the cancerous cells. This also requires removal of lymph nodes for the purpose of biopsy.
* Modified radical Mastectomy – This is the surgery that removes extensive portions to get rid of the cancerous cells. The complete breast affected by cancer along with certain lymph nodes under the arm and the chest muscle lining is removed by this process of surgery. In certain cases, even part of the chest wall muscles that are affected are removed by this surgery.
* Radical Mastectomy – This surgery removes the complete breast, chest wall muscles and all the lymph nodes under the arm. This kind of surgery for breast cancer treatment is also known as Halsted radical mastectomy.
These surgeries can also be followed by other modes of breast cancer treatment methods like chemotherapy, hormone therapy or radiation therapy to kill any presence of cancer cells. Such kinds of treatment that helps in prevention of cancer re-occurrence is known as adjuvant therapy. Some patients can also consider the option of breast implants to rebuild the removed breast shape after a mastectomy.
This kind of treatment helps in killing the cancerous cells or prevents them from growing by means of internal administration of drugs. The way of drug administration can be either through the blood stream that spreads throughout the body which is known as systematic chemotherapy or is placed directly in the cerebrospinal fluid or any specific organ which is known as regional chemotherapy.
This kind of breast cancer treatment includes the introduction of substances that negate the effect of hormones which induce cancerous growth. Estrogen has been known to induce the growth of breast cancer in certain cases. One of the treatment methods includes prevention of ovaries from secreting the hormone estrogen and such a method is known as ovarian ablation. The hormonal therapy includes the usage of aromatase inhibitor which decreases the estrogen secretion in the body. Aromatase inhibitors are given for hormone-dependent breast cancer patients who are in postmenopausal stage while tamoxifen is used in cases of metastatic breast cancer. Aromatase inhibitors are also in general used as a means of adjuvant therapy after continued use of tamoxifen for two years or more.
High energy x-rays are in general used as an alternative for drugs to kill the cancer cells and prevent them from growing.
Another type of treatment that helps in destroying the cancer cells without any harm to the normal cells is called targeted therapy. The targeted therapies used in breast cancer treatment are in general of two types, Monoclonal antibodies and Tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
* Monoclonal Antibodies – These kinds of substances are antibodies that are made from a single type of immune system cell which has the potential to identify and destroy cancer cells. They are also sometimes used to carry toxins or drugs to the cancer cells to bring in effective destruction of the cells. Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that is used in treating patients of breast cancer. This method can be clubbed along with chemotherapy as a means of adjuvant therapy.
* Tyrosine Kinase inhibitors – These drugs block signals that are needed for tumor growth and are in general used in combination with other anti-cancer drugs. Lapatjnib is one such inhibitor which helps block the HER2 protein inside the tumor cells and is used effectively for treatment of HER2- positive breast cancer patients.