Getting In recent years, there’s been an explosion of life-saving advances in breast cancer treatment. With so many options available to treat breast cancer today, treatments can be tailored to the individual and based on a woman’s genetic profile, the type and location of the tumor, and how far the disease has progressed when it’s discovered.
The fellowship trained breast surgical oncologists at CHI Memorial’s MaryEllen Locher Breast Center provide the up-to-date treatments that are making a dramatic impact on outcomes while lessening the severity and amount of treatment needed to successfully stop the disease.
As with every type of cancer, when it’s discovered early there are more treatment options, survival rates are longer, and the cure rates are higher. The number of women today being diagnosed with breast cancer is about the same as over the last several decades, but now nine out of 10 women can be cured.
New Breast-Conserving Surgery Techniques
For most women with breast cancer, surgery is part of the treatment process. But continued refinements in breast-conserving and reconstructive surgery techniques are also offering the same clinical results but with much less scaring. The goal has always been to remove the cancer, and the old way of thinking was that ‘more is better.’ That resulted in many women being disfigured.
Now the cosmetic result is considered from the beginning – still providing the most effective treatment while remembering that women want a cosmetically pleasing outcome. Using hidden scar techniques, surgeons can use similar incisions used for breast augmentation, preserve the nipple and provide a natural result. In more and more cases, they’re also able to remove the lymph nodes through that same incision.
Radiation Therapy Advances
Partial breast radiation and a short course of whole breast radiation (15 treatments instead of 30 with the same outcome) are two options for women that are less taxing on the body and result in fewer side effects. And for some women, radiation isn’t required. In the past, radiation was a given. But recent studies have shown that not every woman with breast cancer needs radiation, and there’s a growing number of women that can avoid radiation completely after a lumpectomy. It’s one area where cancer treatment specialists are careful not to over-treat just because it’s been a routine part of treatment in the past.
Many women with locally advanced or metastatic cancer will need chemotherapy as part of their treatment. Sometimes chemo is given before surgery to reduce the size of large breast tumors and destroy cancer cells to help make breast-conserving surgery possible. Many women who come to the MaryEllen Breast Center for “mastectomy” can be converted to breast-preserving surgery. Chemotherapy can also be given after surgery to destroy remaining breast cancer cells or to prevent the spread of the disease.
Hormone and Targeted Therapies
The greatest improvement in breast cancer survival is in the development of better and less toxic “directed” therapies. Hormonal therapy medicines treat hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers by lowering the amount of estrogen in the body and by blocking the action of estrogen on breast cells. These drugs have an effective long-term track record and are the backbone of treatment for many women with breast cancer. Targeted therapies like these focus one the specific characteristics of cancer cells, such as a protein that allows the cancer cells to grow in a rapid or abnormal way and are generally less likely than chemotherapy to harm normal, healthy cells.
Collaboration is Key
Whenever a woman enters cancer treatment, they should make certain that there is a team of cancer specialists who are working together to get the best results with the least amount of intervention. That is what’s offered at the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center. One major advancement in breast cancer treatment is the increasing level of cooperation and collaboration between specialists. While the goal is always effective cancer treatment, the outcome and working closely to provide an aesthetic that helps women regain their confidence and live fully after cancer is a high priority.
To schedule an appointment at CHI Memorial’s MaryEllen Locher Breast Center, please call (423) 495-4040. For more information visit maryellenlocherbreastcenter.com.