Doctors will discuss a host of treatment options upon diagnosing a patient with breast cancer. The course of treatment is ultimately determined by various factors, including the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis.
Doctors and patients now have more treatment options than ever before, and many women confronting breast cancer will undergo a combination of treatments en route to beating their disease.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.® reports that surgery is the most common form of treatment for breast cancer. Surgical procedures vary, and the following rundown can help women understand their options.
The NBCF notes that a lumpectomy procedure typically removes the least amount of breast tissue necessary to get the tumor out. Surgeons also will remove a small amount or margin of surrounding tissue, but not the breast. The American Cancer Society notes that a lumpectomy is classified as a breast-conserving surgery. The NBCF describes a lumpectomy as the least invasive breast cancer surgery and notes that the procedure is highly effective.
Surgeons remove the entire breast during a mastectomy. The online medical resource Verywell Health notes that there are reasons for and against getting a double mastectomy, and some women who must have one breast removed also have the other healthy breast removed. There are various types of mastectomies, including skin-sparing mastectomy, simple mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy, and partial mastectomy. Each type is different, and what’s recommended to one patient may not be recommended to another. Doctors who recommend mastectomy can break down each option so patients can make the most informed decision possible.
Doctors may need to perform some additional procedures after breast cancer patients undergo a lumpectomy or mastectomy. In such instances, doctors may remove and examine lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread and to what extent it has spread. The NBCF notes that a sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed so doctors can examine the lymph node closest to the tumor, as this is where cancer cells are most likely to have spread. Identifying the sentinel lymph node involves injecting dye or radioactive substances into the tissue. The lymph nodes that are most susceptible to cancer will be marked by the dye or substances injected. Doctors may perform an axillary node dissection, which involves the removal of the axillary lymph nodes located in the underarm. Lymph nodes do not always need to be removed, but doctors will often conduct a sentinel node biopsy or an axillary node dissection when performing a lumpectomy or mastectomy.
Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. Women diagnosed with breast cancer can discuss the pros and cons of common surgeries as they begin their fight against their disease.