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Breast Cancer Treatment

In recent decades, the odds of surviving breast cancer have drastically improved because of better treatments and early detection. Currently, researchers are studying ways of identifying breast cancer before aggressive treatment methods are even necessary, as well as trying to individualize treatment plans to better determine how breast cancer patients will respond to different treatment methods.

In a study by researchers at the Memorial Sloan Cancer Center, newly found breast cancer tumors are now smaller than in the past, at all stages. As the number of breast cancer diagnoses continues to rise, the number of fatalities is falling. This has been partially attributed to screening efforts, but also the drastic changes in breast cancer treatments since the 1970s which have helped the odds of survival.

In addition to new drugs preventing the return of estrogen sensitive breast cancer, surgical strategies have been able to preserve the breast whenever possible. When it is not possible to preserve the breast, a qualified board certified plastic surgeon can restore your breast to a natural appearance. Contact us to speak with a surgeon about your breast recontruction options.

Factors in Determining Treatment

Treatment options can vary and will largely depend on many factors.

  • the stage of breast cancer
  • the type of breast cancer
  • estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor levels in the tumor tissue
  • a woman's age, general health and menopausal status
  • whether or not the breast cancer has just been diagnosed or if it is recurring
Types of Breast Cancer Treatment

There are four types of standard treatment options currently used.

Researchers in Germany analyzed genes in the tumors of breast cancer patients and were able to tell which were likely to improve after drug treatment, according to an Aug. 2005 Journal of Translation Medicine study. While more research is needed, the study gives hope that in the future doctors may be able to use a genetic test to find out how breast cancer patients will respond to chemotherapy drugs.

Because chemotherapy does not work uniformly, being able to identify a choice of drug could help doctors decide what treatment for which patients would be more effective. Still, more research is needed into the genetic markers before the screening can be used to identify treatments for patients. The genetic testing has the potential to eliminate guesswork involved in treatment in the future.

An Austrian study reported in the Aug. 6, 2005 issue of The Lancet offered more evidence for a move away from tamoxifen as the standard drug for postmenopausal women with early breast cancer whose tumors are fueled by estrogen. Using data from two trials that included more than 3,000 women, the study found a 40 percent reduction in "events" such as new breast cancer or a spread of the tumor to another part of the body for those who switched to a drug called aromatase inhibitor after two years of tamoxifen therapy, compared to women who continued taking tamoxifen. According to the study's author, the research provided additional support for a treatment that is a standard both in the U.S. and in Europe.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual breast exams by a doctor for all women in their 20s and 30s and annual screening mammograms for women aged 40 and older.

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