Understanding Breast Cancer – Treatment Options

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 8,684
    Dr. Rebecca Zuurbier, M.D. and Dr. Jacqueline Eghrari – Sabet, MD discuss treatment options for breast cancer.

    Jacqueline Eghrari-Sabet: So now that we know the potential extent of disease, how is breast cancer treated? Traditionally, we know surgery is the primary way of removing breast cancer. If breast cancer is small or limited to one area of the breast, the patient is usually eligible for what's called the Lumpectomy or Breast-Conservation Surgery. With that, a small area is removed and the surgeon attempts to get clear margins, meaning no disease near the edges of the tumor that they've removed. Some patients unfortunately have disease that's too extensive. Either there are too many tumors found or the tumors in opposite sides of the breast or any attempt to remove the tumor would be cosmetically unacceptable. In those cases a patient would be recommended to have a Mastectomy, which is total removal of the breast. There are other ways though that may be used to help improve the outcome of the patient. Even though you may have all those staging test, there's always a concern that there may be a small amount of tumor outside of the breast, or even within the breast. If that's a concern, a radiation oncologist may be brought in. The radiation oncologist is a doctor who can deliver high energy radiation to the breast when the patient has undergone breast conservation therapy. The idea is, you basically kill any seedlings, any small cells of cancer that may not have been detected through standard imaging. Chemotherapy is often used when there is suspicion of disease outside of the breast. For example if the patient has had Axillary Lymph Node sampling or the Sentinel Lymph Node is positive, the chemotherapy regimen maybe offered by the medical oncologist and that's the physician who delivers medicines that are effective at killing cancer cells. Unfortunately chemotherapy may have side effects, including the patient feeling very ill or fatigued, temporary hear loss, they may be more susceptible to infection or they may develop leukemia down the line. So Chemotherapy regimens are delivered very carefully. Generally over a three to six months period, over several cycles, with periods of about two weeks in between to allow for recuperation. Breast cancers are very different. So not one treatment maybe appropriate for each cancer. Your doctor will decide, based on the staging and the nature of your tumor which set of treatments, either surgery and combination with radiation and chemotherapy is most appropriate for you.