The treatments for breast cancer vary according the stage, type, location and size of the cancer. The non-surgical treatments are hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiation. Surgeries for breast include the removal of a tumor, mastectomy (breast removal) and the removal of lymphatic tissue.
If a woman has very small blockages in her mammary glands called “lobular carcinoma”, usually nothing is done except to watch her very carefully. Some women who have lobular carcinoma choose to have both of their breasts removed because the chances of getting breast cancer in the other breast are very hight. In the case of ductal carcinoma, women can often have only a lumpectomy – the lump is removed without having to remove the breast. She will then be treated with radiation therapy. Again, some women also choose to have both of their breasts removed as a preventative.
Stages II through IV
Most women will try all treatments before choosing breast removal if there are any other options. A mastectomy is performed when the cancer is too far progressed, or it is spreading to the lymph nodes.
A woman can and often does choose to try chemotherapy for a while before surgery. If the tumor shrinks, she may only have to have the lump removed rather than have a mastectomy.
After a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, radiation therapy is most often undergone to kill any remaining cancer and increase a woman’s chance of survival.
Once the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, there is no choice but to remove them from the axillary area. A mastectomy is also performed in this case.
Breast Cancer Stage 4
In the case of stage IV breast cancer, the disease is considered inoperable. Treatments include radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. These do not save her life but often help her to live for a while longer. Women may choose to have no therapy in this stage and opt instead for supportive care. This is meant to help control pain and support a better quality of life while she is dying.
Reoccurrences of cancer do happen sometimes. If a woman is prepared and catches on very quickly, there is still a chance she will survive. If the cancer was “hiding” in the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body, it is probably in its last stages. Supportive care is usually the best way to treat this stage of cancer.
While women are the majority when it comes to having breast cancer, a small percentage of men have been known to get it as well. The treatment is much the same for them.