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Breast cancer. Treatment

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so we decided to share with you a sequence of articles about this topic. Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer and the most common cause of death among women. It is a global public health problem with consequences also on a socio economic level. If numbers increase in the same manner as in the present, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be 3.2 new million cases per year.

In the last weeks we talked about what the risk factors of developing breast cancer are and the methods how breast cancer can be diagnosed.

Therapy for breast cancer is varied and it is dictated by the stage of cancer, the type of breast cancer and patient. Approx. 90% of breast cancers are not metastatic (when cancer is spread to other organs) at the time of diagnosing. In this case, the most suitable treatment approach is tumor eradication through surgery and prevention of recurrence.


  • Surgical treatment has evolved over the past years, making this approach an effective one

  • Types of surgeries for early stage breast cancer: breast conserving surgery (BCS), mastectomy with reconstruction and mastectomy alone; if a patient is suitable for all 3 procedures, current guidelines recommend that the decision should be taken by the patient

  • Breast conserving surgery (BCS): it is a procedure preferred by many surgeons when it is possible; it involves the complete removal of tumor while maintaining a cosmetic aspect of the breast

  • Mastectomy: surgical procedure where all the breast tissue is removed in order to remove any cancer cells without having the risk of cancer recurrence

  • Sometimes, the excision of lymph nodes located in the axillary area is necessary as well, for 2 purposes: diagnosing (the cancer may spread to the lymph nodes as well, therefore a biopsy is necessary in order to determine the spread of tumor) or for therapeutic purposes (when the tumor is spread over the lymph nodes, therefore the cancerous tissue needs to be removed)

  • After the surgery, the patient undergoes radiation as well; this combination has shown to be linked to no cancer recurrence and overall survival

Radiation therapy

  • This technique uses radiation energy that passes through the human tissue and destroys cancer cells; the radiations affect the DNA of cells and block their ability to divide => this way cancer is stopped from growing

  • The radiation affects healthy cells as well, but this method is applied in a way to give a higher dose to tumor cells and less to healthy ones; even if healthy cells are affected, they regenerate fast (faster than tumor cells after radiation)

  • It can target the whole breast or only a portion of the breast (after partial removal of the breast), the chest wall (after a mastectomy) or lymph nodes

  • Radiation can be used as a treatment or as an adjuvant therapy for palliative treatment

  • Palliative treatment is intended for patients that do not have a chance of survival and the goals is to alleviate their symptoms caused by cancer

  • In case of of a lumpectomy, the necessary step after the surgery is a radiation of the whole breast

  • Studies show that receiving radiation after the surgical removal of tumor decreases the risk of cancer recurrence by 35% and the mortality is decreased by 25%


  • Systemic therapy in cancer is represented by substances that are injected in the veins; these substances target cells that multiply fast and destroy them or stop the multiplication process

  • Chemotherapy is the standard approach for women that have breast tumors larger than 1 cm

  • Examples: Paclitaxel, Epirubicin, Cyclophosphamide

Hormonal therapy

  • Hormonal therapy is recommended for breast cancers that are sensitive to hormones and it is often used after the surgical removal of a tumor in order to prevent recurrence

  • Hormonal therapy is usually tolerated better than chemotherapy

  • Examples of hormonal drugs: Tamoxifen, Anastrozole, Letrozole

Treatment of breast cancer during pregnancy

  • Breast cancer during pregnancy is diagnosed very rare, around 1% of all breast cancers in Europe

  • This association of breast cancer and pregnancy seems to increase in developing countries, as women decide to have children later in their life when the probability to develop breast cancer is also higher

  • A study conducted on pregnant women that underwent chemotherapy showed that infants had a lower birth weight than those that weren’t exposed to chemotherapy

  • As there aren’t enough cases of breast cancer during pregnancy, the consequences on infants are not fully discovered

Integrative treatment

  • The Society of Integrative Oncology (SIO) provides guidelines on management of symptoms and adverse effects that can appear during or after cancer treatment

  • Symptoms such as anxiety, stress, mood disorders, tiredness, low quality of life and nausea after chemotherapy can be alleviated with mind and body practices and lifestyle modifications

  • Integrative treatment for cancer represents a complementary therapy used by patients with breast cancer or survivors of it

  • Anxiety and stress can be reduced by meditation, music therapy and yoga

  • Mood disorders can be alleviated through meditation, yoga and massage

Palliative treatment

  • In case of metastases, the cancer spreads from the origin to other organs

  • Because the cancer is extended to more organs, regular treatments such as surgery and radiation are no longer a safe option, and in many cases the survival rate is around 2 years

  • In this case the only option is palliative treatment, a kind of treatment that aims to improve the quality of the remaining life

  • It is a procedure that also involves the family, to prepare everyone for the measures that will make the rest of the patient's life more comfortable

Future treatment- Gold Nanoparticles

  • Gold has been used in medicine for centuries for its antibacterial and antioxidative properties

  • Using gold in a nanoparticle form, it can be injected into the body and target tumor cells

  • A study used a combination of gold nanoparticles and 3 other components (antibody, phthalocyanine and polyethylene glycol) to target breast cancer. The results suggest that this combination can selectively target and destroy breast cancer cells.

Medicine is continuously advancing and researchers are continuously working on finding the cure for cancer. We hope for a world cancer free.

In the meantime, let’s raise awareness about breast cancer.

Do you have a mother, sister, girlfriend, friend, daughter around you?

Remind her to perform a monthly breast self examination and go to regular doctor appointments.

And do not forget about you!

If you want to receive a monthly reminder + guidance on how to perform Breast Self Examination, sign up to our newsletter!

Be smart. Be (c)LIT. Fly with us!🌺🐝


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