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Breast Cancer: Treatment Options And Side Effects

Updated on September 27, 2013


In the past decade, the research into treatment options for breast cancer patients has come up with positive advancements and medical options that have renewed the hope and given the fight against breast cancer a boost. Previously, diagnosis of breast cancer almost certainly spelt a death sentence but with the explosion of information, research and the advances in the medical world chances are that any form of breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and treated completely, ensuring that the patient goes on to live a completely productive and fulfilling life. Once the cancer has been diagnosed, patients are advised to begin discussing treatment options with their doctor. Treatment options should be researched properly, since the information is available on the internet and through print and visual media. Sometimes patients may feel the need to seek a second opinion with regard to the treatment options offered by the diagnostic doctor. In this case such opinion should be sought immediately. It should be noted that any delay in beginning treatment could easily translate to more aggressive options as the cancer spreads quickly. Treatment of breast cancer should begin immediately after diagnosis, in order to avoid complications arising from the advancing cancer and some forms of aggressive treatment. In addition, doctors and qualified professionals not o0nly consider the form of cancer diagnosed but also the type of body (with regard to weight, age, gender and hormonal state) of the patient before advising on the best form of treatment and possible repercussions of the treatment option chosen.


The first and most aggressive form of treatment is surgery. There are different forms of surgery that is the mastectomy, lumpectomy, lymph node removal, prophylactic mastectomy and ovary removal. Of this, entire mastectomy (the total removal of the breast) is the most aggressive and often has the most positive results. However in order to save the breast, doctors and patients may opt for other surgeries such as removal of surrounding tissues and the tumor on the breasts (lumpectomy) or removal of the lymph nodes. Treatment of cancer through surgery is no longer as invasive as it was years back. Even in mastectomies the removal of muscles surrounding the breasts is not necessary. Patients are able to undergo reconstructive surgery once the wounds have healed and under the advisement of their doctors. The main advantage of the surgery option is that it does not require aggressive chemotherapy and also reduces the risk of recurrence. Prophylactic surgeries on the other hand are mainly preventive measures undertaken by high risk patients with the advice of their doctors. They may include mastectomy, which is the removal of the breast to prevent cancer or removal of the ovaries to stop the production of estrogen (hormone known to increase chances of developing and the advance of cancer cells especially in women). The type of surgery chosen by patients and doctors often depends on the individual and the character of the cancer, and includes different side effects such as change in appearance, hormonal imbalances, scarring and infertility.


Chemotherapy is a less invasive procedure for the treatment of breast cancer. For chemotherapy, the patient undergoes periodic medicinal intake (combines different forms of drugs) depending on the type of cancer. The medicine often affects the entire body as it is transported through the blood stream. Because if this, chemotherapy has the advantage of destroying cancer cells that may not have been diagnosed yet or localized in the area being treated. Roaming cancer cells are the main reason for recurrence of cancer, chemotherapy helps destroy all forms of cancer giving the patient a higher chance of remission. The side effects include often the loss of hair, anemia, low blood cells, fatigue, infection, memory loss, nausea ,infertility, loss or gain of weight ( in most cases patients suffer a high percentage of weight loss), lack of appetite, hormonal imbalance and infertility. Although many of these side effects do not take much time, and can be treated with further medication some may persist even after the chemotherapy has ended. However, when the symptoms persist and become severe it is often advisable to seek the advice of the doctor in charge of the treatment of the patient.


Radiation is another form of cancer treatment which is less aggressive. In most cases radiation is used to reduce the risk of cancer. The side effects of radiation are often limited to the area affected and not the entire body like the chemotherapy treatment. Radiation is often given to the high risk patients to reduce the chances of developing cancer cells. The main side effects affect the nature and color of the skin. Once exposed to radiation skin may become raw, or light because of the constant exposure to strong radiation rays. Other side effects include difficulty in breathing, chest pains, and fatigue and heart problems. Each of these symptoms is not long term and can be treated easily by medical professionals.

Hormones have been established as a main cause of breast cancer and have often been blamed for the increased spread of the same. Mainly, hormonal treatment make use of hormonal drugs to reduce the production of estrogen and inhibit any action of the same hormone on the cancer cells localizing the cancer and stopping the spread to make other treatment options more effective. It should be noted that many doctors advice hormonal treatment be used with other forms of cancer treatment to increase the effectiveness. Hormonal treatment I yet to be effective on its own in the treatment of cancer. For many doctors, it is in fact the least used of all forms of cancer treatments. The main side effects include menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and moodiness, and infertility.


A cancer treatment known as holistic treatment has gained popularity among people. Holistic treatment includes acupuncture, aroma therapy, chiropractic, and hypnosis. It is important for all patients seeking this form of treatment should conduct extensive research in the organization or individual offering this treatment. Many unscrupulous individuals have taken advantage of the little information known with regard to these forms of treatment to fleece patients of their resources while offering mediocre treatments which end up being dangerous to the patient.

For any form of treatment, patients should ensure they understand exactly what the treatment entitles. This is to ensure that they know the risks they are taking which should be weighed against the benefits expected from the treatment. The best person to give such information would be the sector advising on the forms of treatment. With each form of treatment, the chances of remission either increase or decrease and this chances are only known to the medical professionals.


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