Most commonly, as a part of treatment for breast cancer, a surgery is conducted to remove the cancerous lump or growth from breasts. Depending on the extent of cancer and its stage, surgery may be accompanied by another form of treatment as well, which are conducted either before or after the surgery.
The doctor decides upon a breast cancer treatment plan that is most suitable for the patient. The decision may depend upon the extent of spread, the overall health of the patient, the stage and the type of breast cancer (inflammatory, cancer during pregnancy, lobular carcinoma, ductal carcinoma and invasive breast cancer).
The team that conducts breast cancer treatment includes a surgeon, medical oncologist, and a radiation oncologist. The different breast cancer treatment options are divided into two types:
Local Treatment: This type of treatment is localized, that is, it is only used to treat one specific location or primary site affected by cancer. It does not have any impact on the rest of the body.
The following are the two types of local treatment:
It is the most common form of treatment that targets to remove as much cancer from the primary location as possible. There are different types of surgeries, which can be selected by the doctor depending upon the requirement.
In this type of breast cancer removal surgery, the entire breast is removed to eliminate cancer cells. It can involve either one or both the breasts.
In this type of surgery, only the part of the breast containing cancer is removed. The goal is to remove just cancer and some part of surrounding healthy tissues and leave the rest of the breast as is.
Lymph node removal:
This type of surgery is sometimes conducted in addition to either of the first two types of surgeries, in case cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
This type of surgery is conducted after the removal of cancer, in case the patient demands to improve the appearance of the breast mounds after the removal surgery.
Radiation is required by some breast cancer patients, mostly in addition to other types of treatment. It is typically used in case of patients who have undergone mastectomy, breast-conserving surgery or if cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Delivering high dose radiation to the affected part of the body helps reduce the chances of cancer recurrence.
The radiation can either be delivered externally or by placing a small radioactive pallet in the affected area internally. The latter form of radiation therapy is known as brachytherapy.
This type of treatment involves the used of drugs that can be administered either orally or intravenously. The choice of drugs depends on the type of systemic treatment opted for, which, in turn, is dependent upon the extent and the type of cancer.
Chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormone therapy are the three primary types of systemic therapy for breast cancer treatment.
Of all the three forms of systemic treatment, chemotherapy is the most common. Chemotherapy is recommended before the surgery to reduce the size of the tumor and after the surgery to kill off the remaining cancer cells. It involves the intravenous administration of specific anti-cancer drugs.
Hormone therapy is most commonly used in cases when the patient has tested HER-2 positive in the biopsy. Targeted therapy, on the other hand, is less commonly used.