Getting a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to mean there is no hope. Every single day, thanks to modern medicine advancements, there are more and more options available to you. That means you have plenty of options that may help you work toward remission and become a survivor.
Explore some of the options available today by talking to your oncologist to decide which option is the best for you and your specific condition.
Choosing a Treatment Plan
The first step? Choosing a treatment plan with your doctor. Determining a treatment plan is very personalized and depends on a variety of factors. Some factors that your oncologist will consider include:
- Stage of cancer
- Tumor’s subtype
- Genomic markers
In short, you’re unique—no one treatment plan will suit every single person. By working with your doctor and discussing your personal and family history, you can craft a treatment plan best suited to you.
The following options can be used separately or in conjunction with each other to produce the best results.
What is hormonal therapy and how does it work?
Some breast cancer tumors grow through receptors for the hormones estrogen or progesterone. Many forms of hormonal therapy prevent production of these hormones or stop hormones from attaching to cancer-ridden receptors. In both cases, the goal is stopping the growth of the cancerous cells.
When is hormonal therapy often used?
This option is usually used before and/or after surgery to make the surgery more successful.
What options are available?
After menopause, hormonal therapy options are more limited. Luckily, there are still plenty of medications available! Options specifically made for postmenopausal women include:
Women who don’t respond to hormonal therapy still have other medications to consider. Verzenio, for example, is a popular option for women who don’t respond to hormonal therapy.
If you have breast cancer, one of the most effective methods can be removing the tumor through surgery. There are two major types of surgery to tackle breast cancer: lumpectomy and mastectomy.
What is a lumpectomy?
This surgery removes the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. A lumpectomy allows the patient to keep most of their breast after the surgery.
What is a mastectomy?
A mastectomy removes the entire breast, but the patient may be allowed to keep their skin and possibly even their nipple.
Many women consider getting implants after the surgery, although not everyone does. Either decision is perfectly okay; it’s what feels best for you.
3. Radiation Therapy
Radiation targets the cancerous cells in the breast and destroys them.
Is radiation effective by itself?
Radiation therapy may act alone or in combination with other kinds of therapy; it varies by individual. Multiple rounds of radiation therapy are typically required either way.
Is radiation invasive?
Generally speaking, radiation doesn’t require invasive procedures as a machine from the outside of the body produces the energy required. Most often, the patient lies down for the entire procedure.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy consists of the patient receiving medication that destroys or hinders the cancer cells. It is an intense form of therapy that affects the entire body, not simply the breasts.
What are the side effects of chemotherapy?
Since chemotherapy attacks both cancerous and healthy cells, it can have serious side effects. These side effects include:
- Hair loss
- Extreme nausea
- Easy bruising or bleeding
How is chemotherapy administered?
Chemotherapy can be administered orally (by mouth) or intravenously (through an IV).
5. Targeted Therapy
What is targeted therapy?
Sometimes it’s best to use our body’s own natural defenses to fight cancer. This type of therapy uses certain medications to increase the body’s immune system to help it fight the cancer.
When it targeted therapy most effective?
Targeted therapy works best for cells with the protein HER2/neu (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2).
What options are available?
Popular medications used in targeted therapy for breast cancer include:
- Tykerb (lapatinib)
- Perjeta (pertuzumab)
6. Complementary Treatment
What is complementary treatment?
Many people like to look into alternative options to add to their medical treatment plan, oftentimes referred to as complementary treatments.
What options are available?
There are a variety of complementary treatments methods, including:
Can complementary treatment replace other forms of treatment?
No! It’s important to remember that you should not replace your medical treatment with complementary treatment. Instead, use it in combination with your medical treatment to provide the best results. It’s advisable to run these treatments by your doctor first.
One of the best ways to fight cancer? Be prepared before it happen!
What are some risk factors for breast cancer?
Some key risk factors include:
- Gender (women develop breast cancer much more often than men do)
- Getting older
- Having a family or personal history of breast cancer
- Drinking alcohol
- Early menstruation or menopause
- Being overweight/inactive
Of course, many of these risk factors are unavoidable. That simply means that if any of these risks apply to you, you should get regular mammograms to catch any cancer early.
What are mammograms?
The go-to professional method for catching breast cancer is a mammogram. Mammograms are the process of taking an x-ray of your breasts to check for signs of cancer.
Don’t forget about self-exams!
Be sure to give yourself regular breast checks to look for lumps, too. If you do notice something, catching it early can make a huge difference.
Just Remember: You Have Options!
Fighting breast cancer can stressful. Talk to your doctor about support groups and other counseling options to help you maintain the best attitude possible throughout your journey. Above all else, remember: you have plenty of options to help you become a survivor!