Medically Reviewed by Michael D. Pavy, MD
It’s not a great statistic: 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer during their lifetime. However, here is a better statistic: for women with Stage I breast cancer, the 5-year survival rate is greater than 95%. For Stage II, it’s 93%. Even for Stage III, it’s still 72%. This focus on survival is, in large part, due to refinements and developments in breast cancer treatment. Most women with a breast tumor will have breast cancer surgery. But, there are many other elements to their treatment.
Treatment with chemotherapy is often recommended before a planned surgery. The goal is to either shrink the tumor or stop it from growing, while awaiting surgery.
After a lumpectomy or other less-than-total mastectomy, treatment with radiation therapy is usually – but not always — recommended.
Radiation treatments come in several forms:
TARGETED DRUG THERAPY
Newer drugs are also helping cancer specialists treat advanced breast cancers. BRCA gene mutations, found in some women, can cause cancer. A special class of drugs — PARP Inhibitors — is being tested in clinical trials.
Hormone therapy is used to treat advanced cancer in women who have gone through menopause. A drug called Everolimus can help with hormones. Another category of drugs (anti-angiogenesis) is in clinical trials to see if they can stop blood vessels from growing and feeding the tumor.
Advances are continually made in this area. Check with your cancer specialist about additional options.
Yes, even something as simple as Vitamin D can help. According to one study, women with early stage breast cancer had a poorer outlook if they had low vitamin D levels. Certainly, more research is needed. Yet, if you have breast cancer, check your vitamin D level. If it’s low, you may want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.
All of these therapies, along with surgery, can be most effective with an early diagnosis of breast cancer. The most important action you can take is to have an annual mammogram, beginning at age 40.
To schedule your mammogram at McLeod Health in Florence, Darlington, Dillon, Loris, or North Myrtle Beach, call 843-777-2095.
Find a Cancer Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Cancer Society, Cancer Journal for Clinicians, National Cancer Institute, Journal of the American Medical Association, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Radiological Society of North America