by Katelyn Schwanke
(last updated September 5, 2008)
Breast cancer patients have a variety of surgical and non-surgical treatment methods available to them. The most common treatments for breast cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, biological therapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.
Surgical methods include lumpectomy, partial mastectomy and simple mastectomy. A lumpectomy is a surgical process in which the doctor removes only a small portion of the breast (only the portion of the breast that has cancerous tissue) to leave as much of the healthy breast tissue as possible. A lumpectomy is only available to women who have a very small tumor in the breast or who have had chemotherapy prior to the surgery to shrink the tumor. A partial mastectomy may be necessary if the unhealthy tissue lump is too large; a partial mastectomy is a surgical method in which the infected tissue is removed along with healthy tissue and some muscle. Beyond the lumpectomy and partial mastectomy methods, the surgeon may advise that a simple mastectomy is done. A mastectomy is a surgery in which the entire breast and muscle beneath it is removed.
Radiation therapy uses x-ray waves to shrink the cancerous tissue. Radiation therapy is useful but can sometimes make it more likely that a second tumor is developed. Ask your physician about side effects that you may develop.
Biological therapy is medicine that focuses on attacking certain parts of the cancerous cells that cause the cancer to spread or come back. Some biological therapies target proteins that make the cancer spread and some focus on stopping blood vessels from becoming infected.
Hormone therapy stops breast tissue from reacting to two hormones found predominantly in women, progesterone and estrogen. These two hormones are necessary for the health of women but if cancer cells are excessively exposed to them it can cause the cancer to return.
Chemotherapy is chemical treatment that kills cancer cells. Chemotherapy is given in pill form or IV (with a needle in the veins) anywhere from a few weeks to six months.
You may wonder which of these treatments is most successful but if you are diagnosed you will have to work with your doctor to determine which type is the best for you and your specific type of cancer. Many are successful and are constantly being improved by drug researchers and oncologists.
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