Nearly a quarter of a million women in the United States were expected to undergo treatment for breast cancer in 2016. And just as there are several types and severities of breast cancer, there are also numerous treatment options. Most women who are diagnosed undergo a combination of local and systemic treatments, with local treatment targeted at the tumor and systemic treatments taking aim at cancerous cells that may have spread to other parts of the body. When diagnosed early, breast cancer is often treatable with little chance of remission later in life, although some types of breast cancer spread more quickly than others. If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, then you probably have questions about the multitude of possibilities for treatment. Read on to see which breast cancer treatment options are most effective in 2016.
Radiation treatment may be recommended for breast cancer patients when tumors are larger than 2 inches or when cancerous cells are found in the lymph nodes. Radiation therapy is also urged when cancerous cells or growths are found to have spread to other parts of the body.
Breast-conserving surgery -- also known as a lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, segmental mastectomy or quadrantectomy -- allows women with breast cancer to keep at least part of their breasts, which can improve quality of life. However, the downside to this surgery is most patients must also undergo radiation treatment to ensure all cancer cells are killed. Radiation therapy has its own side effects and potential health complications.
Chemotherapy can be useful for breast cancer patients before and after their complete or partial breast-removal surgeries. Chemotherapy administered before surgery can increase the chances of surgeries being less invasive by shrinking the sizes of tumors. Also, pre-surgery chemotherapy can allow doctors to reattempt post-surgery chemo when tumors don't react to the drugs.
Women who are diagnosed with ER-positive or PR-positive breast cancers may be urged to undergo hormone therapy. Through this therapy, various drugs can prevent estrogen from attaching to the receptors of cancerous cells, effectively blocking these cells from growing. Hormone therapy is often given up to five years after surgery for eligible women.
Doctors often combine two or three drugs to maximize the effectiveness of chemotherapy. The most common chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer patients are anthracyclines, taxanes, 5-fluorouracil, cyclophosphamide and carboplatin.
While combination drugs are best with earlier-stage cancers, advanced-stage breast cancers are usually treated with single, more powerful chemotherapy drugs. Some of the most common chemo drugs for advanced breast cancers are Docetaxel, Paclitaxel, Platinum agents, Vinorelbine and Capecitabine.
Chemo drugs work by attacking rapidly reproducing cells, which usually are cancerous but can also be normal cells, which causes more unpleasant complications. Targeted therapy drugs are newer and are designed to attack only cancerous cells -- and sometimes they work better than chemotherapy. Targeted therapies can be especially useful for women who are diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancers.