If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you need to weigh different options for treatment of the same. You can consult a multi-disciplinaryteam to consider what mode of treatment suits you.
Your breast cancer team of doctors will include:
- Breast surgeon: cancer is treated with surgery
- Radiation oncologist: cancer is treated with radiation
- Medical oncologist: cancer is treated with chemotherapy and other drugs.
Apart from these main players, your team may include nurses, social workers, psychologists, nutritionists etc. You must weigh all options with your team before deciding on mode of treatment. You may even seek a second opinion for the treatment. You might also factor in cost of breast cancer treatment in India.
There are several modes to treat breast cancer, based on stage and type:
Local Treatment: This is treating the tumour without impacting the rest of the body. Types of local therapy are:
These are suitable for early stage breast cancer.
Systemic Treatments:Cancer can be treated with drugs, administered orally or intravenously. The treatment is called systemic as it reaches cancer cells in all parts of the body. On basis of type of breast cancer, treatment may be:
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
Some women will get more than one type of treatment to fight cancer. The behaviour and biology of cancer determines the mode of treatment which is very individualized. Factors include:
- Stage of the tumour
- The subtype of the tumour (based on status of hormone receptor)
- Genomic markers
- Age of patient, her general health and choices
- Menopausal status of patient
- Mutations in breast cancer genes that have been inherited
Most doctors recommend surgery, especially for early stage cancer. Some nearby tissue will also be removed to check cancer. For large and quickly spreading cancers, doctors will recommend systemictreatment also.
There are following types of surgery:
- Lumpectomy: removal of tumour and small, cancer-less margin of healthy tissue around the tumor.
- Mastectomy: Removal of the entire breast by surgery.
- Lymph node removal
- Reconstructive surgery: Breast is reconstructed after mastectomy by using tissue from the body or synthetic implants. This surgery is conducted by a plastic surgeon.
The long-term survival rate of women going in for lumpectomy is the same as that for mastectomy. This is because, cancer can return even after the latter.
X-rays of high energy and other particles are used to kill cancer cells. These are of three types:
- External beam therapy (radiation from machine outside body)
- Intra-operative radiation(radiation from probe inside body)
- Brachytherapy (placing radioactive material inside tumour).
Use of drugs to stop cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. It may be administered orally or intravenously. The treatment depends on:
- Likelihood of chemotherapy to work
- Stage and type of cancer
- The goals of the treatment
- breast cancer chemotherapy cost in India
It may be given to reduce size of tumour before surgery (neo adjuvant chemotherapy) and after surgery to reduce chances of recurrence (adjuvant chemotherapy). It may also be given when breast cancer spreads.
Also, referred to as endocrine therapy, it suits treating tumours which test positive for either progesterone or oestrogen receptors in both early stage and advanced cancers. Such tumours use hormones to grow and multiply. Blocking the hormones can be effective in treating cancer. For e.g. the drug Tamoxifen blocks oestrogenfrom attaching to breast cancer cells.
It is a treatment that impacts tissue, proteins or genes which contribute to survival and growth of cancer cells. This treatment is highly focused in comparison to chemotherapy. Thus, it saves healthy tissue from damage.
Ultimately, what treatment you undergo will depend on your individual case.