Breast Cancer Treatment
Choice Cancer Care – The Best Center for Breast Cancer Treatment in Texas
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 231,000 American women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year. An estimated 60,000 more are told they have the earliest stages of the disease. About 40,000 women die annually from breast cancers.
At Choice Cancer Care, our Medical Team is dedicated to delivering state-of-the-art care to patients facing breast cancer. Our team provides years of expertise in breast cancer care while remaining dedicated to staying on the cutting-edge of treatment advancements to ensure our patients have access to the highest quality care no matter what stage of the disease they are facing. Our team is also dedicated to delivering compassionate care, which means our patients can rest assured their comfort and quality of life are top concerns.
Understanding the basics of breast cancer is an important early step in coming to grips with your new diagnosis. The breast is made up of cells which, under normal conditions, divide and form new cells in an orderly fashion. In cancer, the cells divide in an uncontrolled fashion. By definition, cancer is uncontrolled cell growth. In the early stages, the cells remain in the milk-producing glands (lobules, which make milk) or the ducts (tubes which transport milk from the glands to the nipple). When the cancer cells are confined to the ducts or lobules, the cancer is referred to as in-situ, or non-invasive. These in-situ or non-invasive cancers are considered curable.
With time, some cancers develop the ability to penetrate the lining of the ducts and invade into the surrounding tissue. Tumors that have invaded the lining of the duct are called invasive, or infiltrating, cancers. At first, these invasive tumors are confined to the breast and are at least potentially curable by local removal (lumpectomy and radiation) or by mastectomy.
As the invasive tumors grow, they eventually invade into the surrounding lymphatic or blood vessels of the breast. Once they have invaded these structures, they can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. The usual first sight of metastasis is the under arm (axillary) lymph nodes. Cells can also spread to other organs of the body. The most common sites for distant metastasis are the bones, the liver, the brain, or the lung.
Often, there are no symptoms of breast cancer, but signs can include; a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. Breast cancer stages range from early curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer.
In its early stages, breast cancer usually has no symptoms. As a tumor develops, you may note the following signs:
• A lump in the breast or underarm that persists after your menstrual cycle; often the first apparent symptom of breast cancer, breast lumps are painless, although some may cause a prickly sensation. Lumps are usually visible on a mammogram long before they can be seen or felt.
• Swelling in the armpit. Although lumps are usually painless, pain or tenderness in the breast can be a sign of breast cancer.
• A noticeable flattening or indentation on the breast, which may indicate a tumor that cannot be seen or felt.
• Any change in the size, contour, texture, or temperature of the breast; a reddish, pitted surface like the skin of an orange could be a sign of advanced breast cancer.
• A change in the nipple, such as an indrawn or dimpled look, itching or burning sensation, or ulceration; scaling of the nipple is symptomatic of Paget’s disease, a localized cancer.
• Unusual discharge from the nipple that may be clear, bloody, or another color. It’s usually caused by benign conditions but could be due to cancer in some cases.
• A marble-like area under the skin.
• An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
There are a wide variety of treatments depending on the type and stage. While the focus on breast cancer is typically with women, it is not uncommon to find breast cancer in men.
Whether a lumpectomy or mastectomy is performed to remove cancerous tissue, it is common for chemotherapy treatments to coincide with other lifesaving measures when breast cancer is the diagnosis. Chemo involves the introduction of cancer-killing drugs into the system. These drugs may be administered intravenously or by mouth and work by traveling through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in most parts of the body. Chemo treatments generally last for several months and are given in cycles with each treatment period followed by a rest period meant to give the body a chance to rest.
Chemotherapy may occur at three stages during breast cancer treatment:
• After surgery – Also known as adjuvant chemotherapy, the first round of therapy begins following removal of cancerous tissue. Even if no evidence of remaining cancer cells is found, this therapy is commonly recommended to lower recurrence rates.
• Before surgery – Also known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy, this involves administration of chemo drugs prior to surgery. It can help shrink tumors in advance to surgery, which may lead to less extensive surgical procedures. In addition, this form of chemotherapy enables doctors to see how cancer responds to the prescribed medications.
• Advanced breast cancer – In cases where cancer has spread outside the breast, chemo may be used as the main therapy. The duration of treatment will depend on whether there is evidence it is working and how well a patient tolerates chemo.
Partial Breast Irradiation/MammoSite Therapy
MammoSite Targeted Radiation Therapy may also be used in conjunction with other treatments for breast cancer. This highly targeted therapy involves a higher daily dose of radiation over a shorter duration of time because the therapy works inside the body. This therapy generally is performed in cases where a lumpectomy has taken place.
Before this treatment begins, a balloon is inflated inside the tumor cavity with a small catheter remaining outside the breast. During therapy, the external catheter is connected to a computer-controlled High Dose Rate (HDR) machine that inserts a radiation “seed” directly to the site intended to receive irradiation. Once the therapy is completed, the seed is removed and patients return to their normal activities. No radiation remains in the body following treatments.
Once a course of MammoSite radiation is completed, the balloon catheter is removed from the cavity. This type of targeted therapy has held up extremely well in clinical testing. Initial 5-year trial results showed no local recurrences and 83.3% of patients had good to excellent cosmetic results.
One of the biggest concerns of women facing chemotherapy treatments for breast and other forms of cancer is the high likelihood of hair loss during treatments. A new technology enables patients to increase the odds that they’ll be able to keep their hair.
Chemo Cold Caps involve the use of specialized caps that are worn on the head before, during and after regular chemo treatments. These caps are cooled to a -30 degrees C and then are worn on the head to prevent chemo drugs from reaching the hair follicles. While patients report some discomfort, the results have made this therapy rather desirable for those who wish to do what they can to retain natural hair during cancer treatments. While not effective for everyone, many users report pleasing results.
Breast cancer treatment may vary based on patients’ individual cases. To learn more about the options available, be sure to discuss your particular case with your doctor. A number of factors may come into play that make one treatment course advisable over another.