Breast cancer, when detected and diagnosed early, can be cured, or at least put into remission. Screening is very important when it comes to breast cancer because when symptoms are present, this means the cancer is larger and it has probably spread to other parts of the body. When it is caught before the symptoms begin, a woman’s prognosis is a lot more positive.
The diagnosis is just as important as the treatment of breast cancer because without it, the treatment means nothing. The treatment is based off the diagnosis, and if the diagnosis is wrong, the treatment will be wrong; unnecessary time will have been wasted and the disease can become larger and spread because of a mistake in diagnosing. A team of radiologists, pathologists, and surgeons is the best way to get the most accurate diagnosis and appropriate care. There are many technologies available to detect, diagnose, and typify breast cancer.
Stages of Breast Cancer
For the purpose of this article, it is important to be aware of the stages of breast cancer; after all, that is what the treatment is based off of. A team of doctors will be able to describe to you exactly the diagnosis and possible treatment, based off the stage that the cancer is in.
There are many options when it comes to treating breast cancer: chemotherapy, surgery, hormones, radiation, and more. The doctor will help you choose the treatment depending on the stage of the disease. The stage is related to the size of the cancer, whether or not the cancer has invaded nearby tissues, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. When breast cancer spread, the cancer cells are usually found in the lymph nodes under the arm, but it can spread to nearly any part of the body, including the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. Treatments are as follows:
Surgery. There are different types of surgery: removing the breast cancer (lumpectomy—the tumor is removed and some of the surrounding healthy tissue); removing the entire breast (mastectomy); removing one lymph node (sentinel node biopsy—the lymph node that receives the drainage from the breast cancer is removed and tested for cancer cells); or removing several lymph nodes (axillary lymph node dissection—if the sentinel lymph node is found to have cancer cells, the axillary lymph nodes will be removed).
Radiation Therapy. High-powered beams of energy are used to kill cancer cells. Side effects can include fatigue, sunburn-like rash where the beams touched, breast tissue may appear swollen or firm, there are other side effects that are rare but more serious: arm swelling, broken ribs, or damage to the lungs.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. If there is a high chance that the cancer could recur, your doctor will probably recommend chemotherapy after surgery to decrease this chance. It is sometimes given before surgery to shrink a tumor. Side effects include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, fever, and frequent infections.
Hormone Therapy. This is used to treat cancers that are sensitive to hormones (estrogen and progesterone). It can be used with or after other treatments. The different medications will block hormones from attaching to cancer cells (Tamoxifen), stop the body from making estrogen after menopause (aromatase inhibitors), or stop hormone production in the ovaries.