The good news is that breast cancer can be treated successfully. Treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or any combination of these. Here's a closer look at each.
When breast cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will order tests to find out if the cancer has spread from the breast to other parts of the body. This is called staging and is an important step toward planning a treatment program.
Surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible is the primary treatment for breast cancer. Today, women have many surgical options and choices.
Breast reconstruction surgery involves creating a breast mound that comes as close as possible to the form and appearance of the natural breast.
Whenever the normal drainage pattern in the lymph nodes is disturbed or damaged—often during surgery to remove the lymph nodes—the arm may swell. This swelling, caused by too much fluid, is called lymphedema.
A prosthesis can be worn against the skin, inside the pocket of a mastectomy bra, or attached to the chest wall. Prosthetic devices are designed to look feminine and be comfortable.
Radiation therapy is a process that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. Radiation done after surgery can kill cancer cells that may not be seen during surgery.
Your oncologist will determine how long and how often you will have chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously or by pill, and is usually a combination of drugs.
Other treatments for breast cancer include hormone therapy, used to prevent the growth, spread, and recurrence of the cancer, adjuvant therapy, and biological therapy.
Tamoxifen has been used to treat both advanced and early stage breast cancer. More recently, tamoxifen is being used as an additional therapy following primary treatment for early stage breast cancer.
Taxol, or paclitaxel, is a drug used for treating certain women who have advanced breast or ovarian cancer. Paclitaxel is a compound that is extracted from the bark of the Pacific yew tree.
Clinical trials are studies, managed by government agencies, educational institutions, private not-for-profit organizations, or commercial businesses, to develop, produce, and evaluate the effectiveness of new treatments and therapies for diseases.
BCPT was a clinical trial that studied tamoxifen as a prevention therapy for those at high risk for breast cancer. Data showed the results of tamoxifen treatment to be "highly significant," with a 49 percent reduction in the number of invasive breast cancers seen across all age groups.
STAR was a clinical trial of the drug raloxifene that included more than 19,000 postmenopausal women at increased risk for breast cancer. The results showed that raloxifene worked as well as tamoxifen at reducing breast cancer risk.
In recent years, researchers have discovered new and better ways to detect and treat breast cancer—and to keep it from coming back.