Breast Cancer Treatment Options
Axillary node dissection refers to the surgical removal of some or all of the lymph nodes under a woman’s arm. Axillary node dissections are usually performed on women who undergo mastectomy to determine whether the cancer has spread past the breast. Sentinel node biopsy is a procedure in which only the sentinel lymph node is removed to evaluate breast cancer metastasis (spread). Lymphedema (chronic swelling of the arm) is a potentially dangerous side effect of lymph node removal.
Chemotherapy is treatment with anticancer drugs and is normally administered intravenously (through the vein) or orally in the form of pills or liquid. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in conjunction with lumpectomy or mastectomy to treat breast cancer patients. Chemotherapy is a systemic form of treatment; it flows through the bloodstream, affecting the entire body. Its purpose is to interfere with the DNA synthesis of cancer cells. . Physicians will determine the appropriate combination of drugs used for chemotherapy based on the patient's cancer characteristics and individual medical profile.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to stop breast cancer cells from growing and dividing. Ionizing radiation deposits energy in the area being treated that injures cancer cells by damaging genetic material and inhibiting growth. Although radiation damages both cancer cells and normal cells, normal cells are usually able to repair themselves and function properly after radiation.
A variety of drugs may be used with or without breast surgery to treat breast cancer. The most common breast cancer drug, tamoxifen, works by competing with estrogen to bind to estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells. By blocking estrogen in the breast, tamoxifen helps slow the growth and reproduction of breast cancer cells.
A variety of drugs may be used with or without breast surgery to treat breast cancer. They include:
- Tamoxifen: effective only in breast cancer that are dependent on estrogen
- Herceptin: used to treat breast cancer patients who have an excess of the HER2 gene
- Ellence: used in conjunction with chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide and fluorouracil) to treat early stage breast cancer
- Taxol: used to treat early and advanced stages of breast cancer
- Docetaxel: used in conjunction with chemotherapy to treat advanced breast cancer
- Aromasin: used in post-menopausal breast cancer patients with advanced breast cancer
- Arimidex: used in advanced (metastatic) breast cancer patients who have not responded well to treatment with the drug, tamoxifen
The above drugs are only a few used to treat breast cancer. Click here to read about others. The type of drugs used to treat breast cancer will vary depending on the patient's individual medical situation.