Breast Cancer Treatment
If you’ve just received the news that you might have breast cancer, one of your first questions is probably: What kind of breast cancer treatment do I need?
This is where a team of specialists at Texas Breast Center benefits you or your loved one. You will have a broad spectrum of treatment options available, and a treatment program will be designed to match your exact case.
Local versus System-Wide Treatment for Breast Cancer
Local Breast Cancer Treatments
These treatment types affect the tumor without affecting the entire body.
Breast Cancer Surgery
When diagnosed with breast cancer, most women have surgery as part of their treatment. Breast surgery is not one-size-fits-all, and surgery can have more than one purpose, including:
- To remove the cancer or as much of the cancer as possible, using either a mastectomy or lumpectomy.
- To determine whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm. We can use an axillary lymph node dissection or a sentinel lymph node biopsy to accomplish this.
- To reconstruct the breast’s shape after the cancer is removed.
If you have breast cancer, you may need radiation therapy. This is often used in tandem with other treatments. The type of cancer you have, your age and family history, and the degree to where your cancer may have spread are all considered. Additionally, the size of the tumor and location of it within the breast are also factors.
Radiation therapy focuses high-energy rays or particles on the cancer cells. This radiation destroys cancer cells. Typically, two types of radiation treatment are available.
- External beam radiation: This type of radiation comes from a machine outside the body and can be a short (5 days) or long (6 weeks) course of treatment.
- Internal radiation (brachytherapy): For this treatment, a radioactive source is put inside the body for a short time.
Dr. Gorman will look at a breadth of factors to determine if you need radiation treatment in your specific case.
Drugs or hormone blocking agents used to treat breast cancer are called systemic therapies. This is because they can target cancer cells throughout the body rather than only in the breast. Chemotherapy is one of the most well known of these treatment types but there are others. Systemic treatments have two means of delivery:
- By mouth (orally)
- Through the bloodstream (through an I.V.)
Not all breast cancer patients require chemotherapy, but there are several situations in which Dr. Gorman may recommend “chemo:”
- After breast surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy): Adjuvant chemo is used in an attempt to kill any cancer cells in remote sites. Adjuvant chemo can also lower the risk of breast cancer recurring.
- Before breast surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy): Sometimes a breast cancer tumor is large and needs to be reduced in size to make surgery less extensive. Neoadjuvant chemo can often accomplish this. This pre-surgery chemo may also kill any cancer cells that have spread but can’t be seen. Just like adjuvant chemo, neoadjuvant chemo can reduce the risk of breast cancer returning.
- For advanced breast cancer: If you have an advanced stage of breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast, chemotherapy is often used as the main treatment. This whole body treatment better affects cells wherever they may occur throughout the body. The length of treatment will depend on how well the chemo is working and how well you tolerate it.
Often, breast cancer cells are influenced by our hormones. In fact, 2 out of 3 breast cancers are what is called hormone receptor-positive. This means the cancer cell has a protein in it that receives either an estrogen hormone or a progesterone hormone. These hormones fuel the cancer cells. By restricting these hormones availability to the cancer cells, the tumors start to starve. This restriction is accomplished through medications that either reduce the hormone or others that stop or slow the rate of absorption by the cell receptors.
As research develops, we have learned more cancer cells and the causes of their growth. Recently, new types of drugs are available that target these cell changes. These targeted drugs are designed to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. Targeted therapy works through a different mechanism than does chemotherapy.
Targeted drugs may work even when chemo does not. Some targeted drugs can help other modes of breast treatment work better. Targeted drugs also tend to have different side effects than chemo. The type of cancer you have will determine if these targeted therapies may be of value to you. Dr. Valerie Gorman and the team at Texas Breast Center will help you make an informed decision.
Using a Combination of Treatments at Texas Breast Center
- Every breast cancer case is unique. When you select Texas Breast Center, you gain valuable partners against cancer.
- A surgical oncologist: a medical doctor who uses surgery to treat breast cancer
- A radiation oncologist: a medical doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer
- A medical oncologist: a medical doctor who uses chemotherapy and targeted treatments to treat cancer
- A plastic surgeon: a doctor who specializes in reconstructing or repairing the breast.
This group becomes your team!
Your team will thoroughly examine your case and customize the treatment plan that best meets your needs and most fits your lifestyle. Because of the breadth and experience of our specialists, a multitude of treatment options exists which are tailored to your situation.
There is no need to panic when you hear the word CANCER. We have walked alongside many women (and men) who have been diagnosed and understand your fears and concerns. It is our privilege to serve you as you journey through breast cancer.
Look through our resource library on Breast Cancer Treatment.