Treating breast cancer has three aims:
- To remove the primary tumour.
- To reduce the chance that cancer will return in the breast or the armpit.
- To reduce the chance that cancer will establish secondaries elsewhere in the body (distant spread).
Local treatment consists of surgery and radiotherapy. It is aimed at the lump and the lymph nodes in the armpit. Treatment additional to surgery is called adjuvant therapy and consists of combinations of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy are also called a systemic treatment because they affect the whole body, and not just the local area.
The treatment you receive will depend on your diagnosis. You may be offered a choice of operations, a combination of surgery and radiotherapy, or a combination of surgery and systemic treatments.
For women with early invasive breast cancer, the survival rate has been shown to be the same with either breast conservation or modified radical mastectomy. Breast conservation, which consists of lumpectomy (removal of the lump only), axillary node clearance and radiotherapy, can be considered whatever your age. But it is not suitable for women who choose not to have radiotherapy or who prefer to have the whole breast removed for peace of mind.
Most treatments for advanced cancer involving the skin and muscles of the armpit, with or without metastatic spread, include systemic therapy. For pre-menopausal women, this is usually chemotherapy and for older women, it is commonly hormone therapy.
Treating breast cancer
- Treatment is aimed at the breast lump, the lymph nodes and distant disease.
- Treatment can be any combination of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
Before you proceed with your treatment…
When evaluating different treatments, the best treatment for your cancer should always be your first concern. Before choosing your treatment, consider the following:
- Be an informed patient – Learn all you can about your type of breast cancer and your treatment options. Do your own research and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your options.
- Get a second option – It’s quite a common practice to seek a second, or even third, opinion from other specialists before proceeding with treatment.