It wasn’t that long ago that a diagnosis of breast cancer was almost akin to a death sentence. Nowadays, however, there are many options for treating breast cancer, and the chances of success are high. Factors such as the type of breast cancer and how developed it is have the biggest influence on the outcome of treatment.
So what treatments are available today? There are three main types; let’s take a look at them now.
Local Regional Treatment
This type of treatment focuses on the area where the breast cancer is found and the surrounding lymph nodes. One of the most common treatments is radiation therapy or radiotherapy. Generally women find there are few side effects to this sort of treatment, and if the cancer is still in the early stages, radiotherapy has a good chance of providing a complete cure.
Surgery is another option, but is usually only used when other methods have failed. Sometimes surgery involves removal of the lump, but in other situations it may be necessary to remove the whole breast and reconstruct the area afterwards. This is known as a mastectomy. Although this can be a difficult surgery for women to undergo emotionally, most women quickly adapt to their new body shape. Modern surgery is improving all the time, with the focus being on retaining as much of the healthy breast as possible.
A systemic treatment involves treating the whole body. Chemotherapy is the main systemic treatment available, and is used to kill any cancer cells that may have spread into the rest of the body from the breast. Unfortunately chemotherapy is a difficult treatment to undergo, often making the patient feel ill and weak. It works by killing off all the rapidly dividing cells in the body. Many of these are cancer cells, but others are not, which is why people are often ill during chemotherapy. Still, as technology and medicine progress, chemotherapy is becoming more refined and a little easier to cope with. It’s also an excellent way to prevent the spread of cancer, particularly to the lymph nodes, and so prevent fatal varieties developing.
Tamoxifen is a drug that is used as a systemic treatment. Unfortunately it often results in serious and uncomfortable side effects, so it’s not often used. However it certainly has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer returning, and in some cases can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in the first place. Side effects can include uterine cancer, blood clots, early menopause, nausea, vomiting, depression and loss of energy, amongst others.
Not everybody believes that modern medicine is the only possible cure for breast cancer, hence the call for treatments that treat the mind, body and spirit in a holistic way. Little medical evidence exists to show that these treatments are effective, but certainly there have been instances of alternative treatments leading to a complete cure. Some possible treatments include meditation, acupuncture, relaxation techniques and herbal preparations including flaxseed and black cohosh.
If you develop breast cancer, then you should spend some time learning about the disease, make sure you understand how advanced your condition is and discuss all available treatment options with your medical professional. Remember, many more women survive breast cancer today, and go on to a live a normal, healthy life after treatment. So you can do it too!