Back in the late 90’s a mastectomy (total removal of the breast) or a lumpectomy (partial removal) was the main treatment available for breast cancer with little other options.
But the past decade has seen massive developments in both the diagnosis and treatment meaning there are now more effective yet less evasive methods.
The way people are treated is an important part of saving lives, breast cancer is no longer the death sentence it was but it is still challenging to treat.
The survival rate today is nearly 90% and in the majority of cases it is detected in stages 0-1 (early stage); but with nearly half a million women diagnosed each year in the US alone treatment needs to be individual for everyone.
Breast Cancer Has Many Guises
Studies have revealed that breast cancer isn’t just one disease, the cancer cells are in fact made up of lots of different kinds of cancer that behaves differently in every patient.
Scientists are now trying to understand the individual types of breast cancer on a molecular level and advanced research and testing means that doctors no longer have to use the same treatment for everyone.
As every cancer patient has different genetic makeup they all have a different risk but through looking at this and testing, oncological teams use the data to create individualized plans for the patients care.
0 to 3 Stages Of Breast Cancer Becoming Possible To Treat
With the current rate of development not only will the disease become more treatable but, if diagnosed in the early stages (between stages 0-3) surgery may not even be needed.
The stages are set out below:
- Stage 0 – There has been no spreading from milk ducts or lobules into other parts of the breast. Cells are non-invasive and Atypical.
- Stage 1 – Cancer cells are now present but they have not spread from the site where abnormal cells first started to develop.
- Stage 2 – Growing Cancer is still contained within the breast or lymph nodes.
- Stage 3 – Cancer has spread beyond the tumor. It has not metastasized into other organs but may have spread into nearby muscle and lymph nodes.
Beating Breast Cancer
There have been recent clinical trials that are still ongoing, where instead of patients being treated with chemotherapy they are being treated with immunotherapy instead!
This is a radical therapy where the drugs used remove the cancer cells shield that helps it grow without the body’s immune system attacking it.
Much like the multiplying cells of an embryo, a trans-membrane protein shields cancer cells and this new treatment is designed to break this shield down and allow the same immune system that fights off the common cold to be able to attack the cancer.
It is important that the treatment still involves a cocktail of drugs and that on occasion the immune system can start to attack other parts of the body as it has been sent into overdrive and if this happens it can cause serious or potentially life threatening problems in the lungs, intestines, hormone glands and other organs.
However it is also important to remember that these drugs are not chemotherapy and are considerably less harmful to patients.
Breast cancer treatment is being revolutionized and this drug could soon be used in a much wider range of cancer treatment.
Targeting immune system checkpoints is fast becoming a key part of treatment but with only a few treatments approved at the moment others are being considered in trials.
Bye Bye To Breast Cancer Surgery?
A 20 year study has already shown that re-occurrence rates were roughly the same between women who had complete breast removal (mastectomy) and those who had removal of just the tumor and surrounding tissue (lumpectomy).
When treated in early stages (0-2) with the less invasive surgery causing less trauma but also yielding similar results it could mean that the job of breast cancer specialists could drastically change in years to come.
Other testing and research include the use of cell freezing techniques to combat smaller breast cancers, something that is already approved to treat liver and prostrate cancer.
Women are becoming far more conscious of the importance of regular screening and performing self-checks and this helps with early detection and the research hopes that freezing small cancers detected early will not only be less invasive but will also show similar results long term to more invasive surgery.
The freezing of cells is not only less invasive but also less risky, more cost effective and offers far quicker recovery times.
It could also prove invaluable to the older community who may have additional health issues that make them poor candidates for more traditional treatments.
Because there are now so many options available when it comes to breast cancer treatment the disease is now managed very differently.
The days of receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer and it meaning you will automatically loose a breast are gone.
While the focus of diagnosis still focuses on staging, it now includes molecular evaluation of the tumor, which is now more important than other markers such as size, or spreading of the tumor.
So if you are reading this and you have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, prayers are with you and just know that everything will be ok.