Treatment for breast cancer is often successful. For example, data from the American Society of Clinical Oncology indicates that the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with non-metastatic invasive breast cancer is 90%, while the average 10-year survival rate for such cancers is 84%.
Those figures reflect advancements in treatment and the effectiveness of campaigns designed to encourage women to receive routine breast cancer screenings as part of their preventive health care regimens.
Once doctors have diagnosed breast cancer, they will consider a host of factors as they try to determine a course of treatment.
• Stage. The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. notes that treatment options depend on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. Stage is usually expressed in a numerical value between 0 and IV, with 0 being the least severe form of the disease and IV being the most advanced (i.e., metastatic).
• Tumor size and location. The Cleveland Clinic notes that the size and location of the tumor also affects how doctors will approach treatment. In general, the smaller the tumor, the more easy it is to treat the disease. Where in the breast the tumor is located also will affect the treatment plan. Doctors often employ a combination of treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to treat breast cancer, and such an approach may be more likely to be employed if the tumor is large.
• Pathology tests. Pathology is the science of causes and effects of diseases. When treating patients for breast cancer, doctors order pathology tests so they can better understand how the disease is affecting their patients’ bodies. For example, the Cleveland Clinic notes that pathology tests like hormone receptor tests and human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER2/neu) can indicate if hormones or growth factors are helping the cancer grow. The results of these and other pathology tests can then help doctors determine an effective course of treatment.
• Personal characteristics. Doctors will consider women’s age, general health and family history when mapping a course of treatment. In addition, doctors discuss menopause with women when determining a course of treatment. Breastcancer.org notes that some breast cancer treatments can bring on menopause more abruptly than it would happen otherwise, so doctors will consider women’s history with menopause when determining treatment.