Treatment Options For Early Breast Cancer

Ductal carcinoma in situ, stages 1, 2 and 3a are early breast cancer, and refer to cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes but not to the distant parts of the body.

Doctor talking with patient about mammograph procedure

Treatment for ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS) and early stages of invasive breast cancers

For DCIS or early stage invasive breast cancer patients, for which doctors recommend surgical removal of the tumor mostly. This in the form of breast conservation surgery or mastectomy with or without surgical axillary staging. To ensure complete remission, surgical oncologists generally remove a safe margin (a small area of healthy breast tissue) surrounding the tumor too. However, since surgical removal happens only for cancerous tissue that has been visible, sometimes a few microscopic cancerous cells can remain behind, which additional surgery removes, with follow-up chemotherapy or radiotherapy or both.

Treatment for early stage breast cancer after surgery (Adjuvant therapy)

After surgical intervention, the immediate priority in the management of breast cancer, is to reduce the risk of recurrence or relapse. This involves the destruction of any cancer cells that may have been left behind in microscopic proportions. This type of post-surgical treatment is adjuvant therapy.

Adjuvant therapies include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapies
  • Hormonal therapies

The effectiveness of adjuvant therapy is measurable whether or not cancer cells continue to remain in the breast/body. It depends on the chance of a specific treatment working to kill cancer cells. Adjuvant therapies can lowers the risk of relapse of recurrence. If doctors indicate radiation therapy along with chemotherapy, then chemotherapy is followed by radiation plus or minus hormonal therapy. Hormonal therapy depends on ER/PR status.

The right adjuvant therapy treatment plan depends on:

  • Accurate staging
  • Type of surgery performed
  • ER/PR, HER-2 neu status
  • Initial biopsy results

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