There’s no way around it. Learning that you have breast cancer is still going to be one of the worst days of your life. The initial shock, panic and overwhelming urge to deny that it is really happening will fade somewhat with time, but life is immediately changed. On a more positive note, there are now a wide range of breast cancer treatment options and they are getting better and more effective all the time. In fact, since 1989, the mortality rate for women with breast cancer had dropped by 36%.
Which treatment option that you choose will depend on several factors and be decided in consultation with your oncology team. How far the cancer has spread determines the stage of your disease. Other factors taken into consideration when determining the correct treatment protocols include:
- Tumor size in relation to the size of the breast
- Pathology tests results – testing is done for hormone receptors, HER2 receptors, grade of the cells and proliferation rate of the cells
- Pre- or post-menopause
- Overall health condition
- Family history
- Other risk factors suggesting a predisposition for developing breast cancer
Before moving forward with a treatment plan, you will need to decide whether you want to explore the possibility of clinical trials. Standard cancer treatments are those that experts agree are the best options. They have proven useful in fighting breast cancer and are widely accepted and used. Clinical trials involve methods that are being tested. They have been approved for a research study, and there is the belief that there is the potential to improve on the standard treatments. Depending upon how well your particular situation fits the study, there may be the option of being a part of it. Obviously, this offers both great possibility as well as great risk.
Standard Breast Cancer Treatment Options
These treatment methods may be used alone or in combination for breast cancer on Long Island and worldwide.:
- Surgery – the goal is to remove not only the tumor, but also enough of the margin area to be able to test for any spreading of the cancer. Types of surgery include a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, radical mastectomy and reconstruction.
- Chemotherapy – a systemic therapy, meaning that the combination of drugs travel in the bloodstream throughout the entire body, designed to either destroy cancer cells or slow their growth.
- Radiation therapy – uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy, which is systemic, only the nearby skin or cells treated with the radiation are affected.
- Hormone therapy – when cancer cells have hormone receptors, hormone therapy drugs, such as blockers or inhibitors, may be used to destroy cancer cells by cutting off their supply of hormones.
- Targeted therapy – uses drugs that block the specific breast cancer cells without harming normal cells, often reducing side effects.
In addition, and used in conjunction with the standard protocols, several types of complementary treatment are being used to help control and reduce many of the symptoms of breast cancer as well as side effects of treatment. Some of these are:
- Music Therapy
Along with the treatment options that have been determined to be the best fit for you, it will be important to have a plan in place that ensures that you maintain a healthy diet, get a reasonable amount of exercise and have a support system in place to help manage all of the moving pieces and keep you sane.
If you would like to learn more, please watch the following video: