Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. This year, 213,000 women and 1,700 men will learn they have the disease. If caught early, breast cancer can be readily treated and often cured.
“Years ago, the only treatment for breast cancer was surgical removal of the entire breast (mastectomy),” Dr. Li-fen Chang, senior medical director of Radiation Oncology at Southern Ohio Medical Center, says.
“Now, doctors can allow most women with early-stage cancer to keep their breasts by performing a lumpectomy (surgical removal of the tumor) and following up with radiation therapy and sometimes chemotherapy.”
Dr. Chang says studies have shown that breast-conserving surgery plus radiation therapy is just as good as a mastectomy and may be preferred by many women.
After a lumpectomy, most patients will undergo external beam radiation therapy, which involves a series of daily outpatient treatments to accurately deliver radiation to the entire breast. Each treatment lasts less than 30 minutes; treatments are given five days a week for five to seven weeks.
Doctors are also beginning to deliver radiation to only the part of the breast where the tumor was removed, over the course of one to five days in a new approach called High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy. Surgical procedures to prepare patients for this type of treatment are now available for qualified patients at SOMC.
Radiation oncologists also are testing ways to deliver external beam radiation to only part of the breast or to give radiation during surgery.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Chang urges all women at age 40 or older to obtain an annual mammogram. Early detection of breast cancer can save your life. Anyone with family history of breast cancer or prostate cancer should talk to your physician for guidance on starting screenings including mammograms at a younger age. Anyone with questions about breast cancer can call the SOMC Cancer Center at (740) 356-7490. For a free brochure on breast cancer, visit www.rtanswers.org or call (800) 962-7876.