Breast Cancer Treatment Choices part 1

Breast cancer can be treated with a mastectomy or breast preservation surgery, lumpectomy, followed by radiation and sometimes chemotherapy. These are the best ways to prevent reoccurrence of cancer. The most common place for cancer to come back is in the same area where it was found the first time.

The determination of which treatment is best for an individual is based on the pathology of the disease. The initial biopsy, which is done when the cancer is first suspected, will tell what type of cancer is present and whether it is hormone receptive. The knowledge of hormone receptors, or not, found will be part of the decision making information for an individual's treatment. Some types of tumors are stimulated by normal hormones found in a woman's body, such as progesterone, estrogen, and HER-2. A tumor may show a positive response to one or more of these hormones. By knowing this information, a plan of treatment can be offered that will improve a woman's chances of cancer free survival.

The pathology from the surgery, done to remove the cancer tumor, will tell if the entire tumor was removed and if cancer was found in the lymph nodes. During surgery the surgeon can see the cancer tumor, but not all of the cancer cells can be visualized. So the tumor is sent to a pathologist who puts the tumor and the surrounding tissue that was removed by the surgeon under a microscope. This way cancer cells that might be outside the main tumor can be seen. The lymph nodes that were removed in surgery can also be looked at under a microscope and it can be determined if there are cancer cells found in the lymph nodes. Often a Sentinel Node can be found, if a dye is used before surgery. This dye is injected before surgery and will show which node is the main node that drains fluid from the cancer tumor site. (The lymphatic system drains non blood fluids throughout the body.)

If lymph nodes are found to have cancer cells within them the cancer has moved from the tumor site to other areas in the body. This movement of cancer cells away from the tumor indicates metastasis, or stray cancer cells that are traveling in the body. The final pathology will offer much information about the type of cancer, the location of the cancer and how best to treat the cancer to provide a cancer free life for the woman.

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