A mastectomy and chemotherapy are common treatments for breast cancer, but there are other options for breast cancer patients. While treatments vary based on your unique health history and cancer, primarily breast cancer treatments fall into three categories: Local, systemic and clinical trials.
Before seeking treatment, it’s important you’ve received mammogram screenings and diagnostic tests, as necessary. The HealthyWoman Program may be able to help you receive these screenings and tests at no cost to you. Learn more.
Below are details on each of the treatments available.
Local treatments are designed to target only the tumor or only the affected area of the breast.
Surgeries and radiation therapies are considered to be local treatments. For breast cancer, the most common surgery is some form of mastectomy. A mastectomy removes all breast tissue. A lumpectomy attempts to only remove the section of breast tissue affected by the tumor.
Systemic treatments are administered throughout the body through the bloodstream. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy are all systemic breast cancer treatments.
Chemotherapy consists of a mixture of drugs that work to kill and prevent the future growth of cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is often combined with other treatments, such as a mastectomy or radiation therapy.
For ER- and PR-positive breast cancers, hormone therapies may be considered. These cancers are affected by the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Hormone therapies block the cell receptors that detect and accept estrogen and progesterone or attempt to lower the levels of these hormones.
While chemotherapy affects all cells (cancerous and healthy) equally in the body, targeted therapies specifically kill cancerous cells by targeting cells with specific gene changes, either by blocking chemical signals or by triggering the immune system.
Researchers are continually trying to improve therapies and discover better treatments for breast cancer. Clinical trials are vital to this process. Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies to determine the effectiveness of possible new treatments. While the thought of being a test subject can be scary, you should know that before a clinical trial on humans can be conducted, several other tests must be conducted beforehand to prove the treatment’s safety and ability to be effective.
Worried about your treatment options?
First, make sure you’ve received proper screenings and diagnostic tests. If you’re worried about how to afford these tests, we may be able to help you even if you have a medical history of breast cancer. Find out if you may be eligible for The HealthyWoman Program, which provides financial assistance to women in Pennsylvania for breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic tests. See if you qualify now!