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Breast Cancer Treatment: Surgery for Breast Cancer

  By posted Jul 3rd 2013
Healthy Living

 

Breast Cancer Treatment: Surgery of Breast Cancer


Most women with breast cancer have to undergo some type of surgery to remove a breast tumour. The oncologist specialist team at BNH HCG Cancer Center, a unit of HCG - Dr. Bhavana Parikh, Consultant, Medical Oncologist, Dr. Deepak Patkar, Consultant, Radiologist and Dr. Sanjay Dudhat, Consultant, Surgical Oncologist, helps us to understand more about various types of breast cancer surgeries available. 

 

They types of operation, which may be considered, are:


Breast-conserving or organ preservation surgery: This is the current option and often suggested if the tumour is not too big

A ‘lumpectomy’ (or wide local excision) is one type of operation where just the tumour and some surrounding breast tissue is removed

 

1. It is usual to have radiotherapy following this operation

2. This aims to kill any cancer cells which may have been left in the breast tissue 

 

Removal of the affected breast (mastectomy)


1. This may be necessary if there is a large tumour or a tumour in the middle of the breast

2. It is often possible to have breast reconstruction surgery to create a new breast following a mastectomy

3. This can often be done at the same time as the mastectomy, although it can also be done later

 

Whatever operation is done, it is usual to remove one or more of the lymph nodes in the armpit. These lymph nodes are where breast cancer usually first spreads to

The lymph nodes, which are removed, are examined under the microscope to see if they contain any cancer cells

This helps to accurately stage the disease and helps to guide the specialist as to what treatment to advice following surgery

Alternatively, a sentinel lymph node biopsy may be performed 

This is a way of assessing if the main lymph nodes draining the breast contain cancer. If they are clear then the remaining lymph nodes in the armpit will not be removed

 

Radiotherapy


Radiotherapy is a treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation which are focused on cancerous tissue

This kills cancer cells or stops cancer cells from multiplying. For breast cancer, radiotherapy is mainly used in addition to surgery

New techniques for radiotherapy are currently in use which reduce the toxicity and duration of treatment

 

Chemotherapy


Chemotherapy is a treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying.

When chemotherapy is used after surgery it is known as ‘adjuvant chemotherapy’

Chemotherapy is sometimes given before surgery to shrink a tumour so that surgery may have a better chance of success and also a smaller operation may be performed. This is known as ‘neoadjuvant chemotherapy’

New gene tests are being developed to help doctors decide which women will benefit the most from chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may also be used for some women to treat breast cancer, which has spread to other areas of the body 

 

Hormone treatments


Some types of breast cancer are affected by the female hormone estrogen (and sometimes progesterone)

These hormones stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply

Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones or prevent them from working are commonly used in people with breast cancer

This hormone treatment works best in women with ‘hormone responsive’ breast cancer

 

Hormone treatments include:


1. Estrogen blockers

Tamoxifen has been available for many years and is still widely used

It works by blocking the estrogen from working on cells. It is usually taken for five years

 

2. Aroatase inhibitors

These are drugs, which work by blocking the production of estrogen in body tissues

They are used in women who have gone through menopause

 

3. GnRH (Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormone ) analogues

These drugs work by greatly reducing the amount of estrogen that you make in the ovaries

They are usually given by injection and may be used for women who have not yet reached menopause

 

*Image courtesy: © Reuters

 

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