The best treatment for breast cancer

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) One of every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. But even with that diagnosis, there is hope! Most of them will be cured. The key is early detection, knowing what to look for, and then what to do when you suspect breast cancer.

Doctors at Cancer and Hematology Centers of Western Michigan say the risk of breast cancer increases with age. Others may also be at risk based on race and family history.

Types of Breast Cancer

Not all breast cancers are the same. There are multiple types, based mainly on whether or not the tumor cells express hormone receptors and whether they contain too much HER2 protein. These factors help determine treatment options.

There are also different stages of breast cancer depending on factors such as how big the cancer is, whether it involves draining lymph nodes, and whether is it detectable in the rest of the body. Stages I through III are potentially curable; stage IV disease is treatable, but not curable.

Treatment Options

When working to cure a breast cancer, there are two main goals:

Local control refers to treatment to make sure cancer does not recur in the breast or draining lymph nodes. This generally involves some form of surgery and in some cases, radiation. The need for radiation generally depends on the type of surgery performed and findings at surgery.

Systemic control is treatment for the rest of the body to kill any cancer cells that may have escaped and spread to distant sites in the body prior to diagnosis. The tools used to achieve this goal are anti-hormonal therapy (sometimes called hormone therapy, but not to be confused with hormone replacement therapy) and chemotherapy.

Treatment recommended for a patient depends on stage at presentation, goals of therapy, and tumor characteristics. Other important considerations include the patient’s age, other medical issues, and whether they are pre- or post-menopausal. The plan for two patients can be very different based on these factors.

What Do I Do?

If you notice a breast lump, call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, or if you are lacking insurance coverage, you can contact Susan G. Komen or your local mammography center for further guidance.

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you would likely see a team of physicians for treatment. That might include a Medical Oncologist, a Radiation Oncologist, a Surgeon, and sometimes a Plastic Surgeon. Depending on your situation, one or more of these disciplines might be involved in your care.

Cancer and Hematology Centers of Western Michigan is on the cutting edge of breast cancer treatment. It is participating in a number of national trials looking for the best way to treat breast cancer. It has a well-established phase I program, START-Midwest, that makes promising new medications currently in development available to patients with advanced cancer for whom standard therapies are no longer effective.

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