Breast cancer ranks second after lung cancer being a major cause of death in women every year. The good news is that today, there are so many options available for treating breast cancer that the survival rates much better than they were years ago.
Prevention is always the first method of treating diseases, but as of yet, there is no prevention method that women can use to fight breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that women over 20 years of age give themselves self breast exams at home. Women should also have check-ups with their doctors every three years. Cancerous tumors can be detected through the use of mammograms, and they have proven to be quite effective for diagnosing breast cancer in women.
There are two major types of breast cancer treatments. These are local and systemic. The local treatments are done with a surgical procedure that is followed with radiation therapy to help control and kill cancerous cells in the specific region where the tumors were found. Hormonal therapy and chemotherapy are used in the systemic treatment process. The chemotherapy is used to kill and stop growth of the cells that are cancerous in the body.
A surgical mastectomy is a very common method of treatment. With this procedure, the breast or part of the breast is removed. Some doctors try to look for alternative methods because of the after effects from the mastectomy. There can be swelling in the arm, the shoulder can be hard to move and the nearest arm may feel weak. If there is not another option, patients who have a mastectomy should have the breast reconstruction surgery done at a later date.
Another type of surgery that can be done is called the breast-sparing surgery. This surgery consists of segmental mastectomies and lumpectomies. The procedure is done by surgically removing the cancerous lump without bothering the breast tissue surrounding it. After the surgery, the patient should have radiation to ensure that the remaining cancer cells in the area of the cancer are destroyed. Doctors usually like to remove the lymph nodes in the underarm of that area so the lymphatic system won’t be invaded later with cancer.
Radiation therapy is another type of breast cancer treatment. This treatment process destroys cancer cells and keeps the growth from coming back. Radiation can be done externally or there are pellets that are full of radiation can be put directly into the breast. If the patient prefers the radiation to be on the outside, they must go to a health center daily to have this performed. The implant radiation would mean that the patient goes back to the hospital to be admitted while the procedure is done. Radiation therapy can have many side effects such as dehydrated skin around the area being radiated and swelling of the breasts.
A very common treatment procedure for breast cancer is chemotherapy. This is one of the systemic therapies which use drugs to kill the cancerous cells. This method is done after a treatment and recovery period. It can be done as an outpatient. Chemotherapy does have some side effects as well. Some of these are a loss of appetite, tiredness, loss of hair, and infertility. Usually when the treatments are complete, these side effects go away.