Care and Treatment Options for Breast Cancer

Care and treatment options can include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. The type(s) of treatments mainly depend on:

  • The stage of breast cancer

  • The existence of hormone receptors in the tumor

  • The level of HER2 (a certain type of protein) in the tumor

  • The relative size of the tumor

  • Whether you have gone through menopause

  • Your general health

Care for pain relief, symptom and side effect control, and emotional support are all important and available at any stage of the disease. Breast Specialty of Baton Rouge is your resource for cancer care, treatment, and education.

Surgery As the most common treatment for breast cancer, there are several approaches to removing tumors surgically. The best type of surgery depends on your case, and you doctor can explain each approach, as well as help you compare the benefits and risks. Removing part of the breast: Also called lumpectomy or segmental mastectomy, breast-conserving surgery, is an operation to remove the cancer and a small amount of the surrounding normal tissue. This operation is usually accompanied with radiation therapy after the surgery to kill cancer cells that may remain. Removing the whole breast: An operation to remove the whole breast is called a mastectomy. In some cases, a skin-sparing mastectomy is an option. In this approach the surgeon will leave as much skin in tact as possible. In a total mastectomy, the surgeon removes the whole breast but not the underarm lymph nodes. In a modified radical mastectomy, the whole breast is removed along with some or all of the underarm lymph nodes, the lining over the chest muscles and even a small chest muscle.

Radiation Therapy Women usually have radiation therapy after breast removal surgery. Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy rays, either internally (brachytherapy) or externally, to kill cancer cells in the part of the body that is treated. Side effects include red, dry, tender, itchy skin and fatigue. External radiation therapy comes from a large machine outside the body in a hospital or clinic setting. Usually lasting only a few minutes, treatment is used 5 days per week for 3 to 6 weeks, and is the most common type used for breast cancer. Internal radiation therapy is also called brachytherapy. The doctor places one or more thin tubes inside the breast through a tiny incision. A radioactive substance is loaded into the tubes each day for a week and then, after only a few minutes, the substance is removed and no radioactivity remains in your body.

Hormone Therapy If lab tests show that your breast cancer cells have hormone receptors, then hormone therapy may be a viable option to keep your cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. Options for therapy include:

  • A drug that blocks estrogen activity in the body (tamoxifen)

  • Surgery to remove your ovaries (only if you have not gone through menopause)

  • A drug to prevent the body from making estrogen

Side effects depend on the type of therapy and can include hot flashes, nausea and vaginal discharge.

Chemotherapy Chemotherapy has the broadest range of uses; it can be used before or after surgery and throughout any stage of cancer. Chemo uses drugs to kill cancer cells, which are usually administered into a vein (intravenously) or as pills. Chemo can also be administered in a clinic, doctor’s office, or at home. Chemotherapy has quite a few side effects, which can be explained in more depth by your physician, but most importantly, it can damage normal cells, including: Blood cells: Drugs can lower the levels of healthy blood cells causing you to get infections, bruises, or bleed easily, as well as fatigue and weakness. Your healthcare team may stop chemo for a while to allow blood cells to regulate or administer medicines to help your body make new blood cells. Hair cells: Chemotherapy may cause hair loss. But after chemo, it will grow back, perhaps with a different color or texture. Cells in the digestive tract: Chemotherapy can cause poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and mouth or lip sores. Your healthcare team can provide medicines or suggestions to help with these problems.

Targeted Therapy Targeted therapy is used for women whose lab results show that their cancer cells have too much HER2 protein. Drugs are administered intravenously or as a pill to block cancer cell growth by blocking the action of the extra HER2 protein. The side effects can be serious and most often include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

The breast specialists in Baton Rouge, LA want you to understand this disease and the treatment methods, so that you and your doctors can work together to fight it. Contact us for more information on cancer, its treatments and care for cancer patients and families. Click here or call us today at (255) 751-BRST (2778) for a consultation with a Louisiana breast specialist.


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