Breast cancer cases are increasing among women from a tender age. While females have a greater chance of suffering from breast cancer, men, too, are prone to the condition under several circumstances. Every patient and their near and dear ones have the same query, can breast cancer be cured? The answer to this query is both yes and no. Breast cancer cures are invented through years of extensive research by imminent researchers and doctors. But the condition can only be cured at the initial stages.
To make people aware of how to cure breast cancer, you can find information focusing on the prime steps of treating breast cancer here. This page focuses on the local, systemic, and common approaches to breast cancer cure and can be a guiding source to all the patients on their path to beating the months-long battles of combatting breast cancer.
- Breast Cancer Treatment
- Local Approaches to Breast Cancer Treatment
- Breast Cancer Surgery
- Breast-Conserving Surgery
Breast Cancer Treatment
If someone you know is recently diagnosed with breast cancer, it may help them to know what treatments they will go through to get their breast cancer cured. Here are the treatment procedures emphasised in the sequential order that breast cancer specialists usually suggest.
Local Approaches to Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast cancer treatment begins with breast cancer surgery for a patient, and in the later stages, the patient may have to undergo radiation treatment. Both these procedures are termed localised as they only focus on treating the breast tumour without affecting the other body parts.
Breast Cancer Surgery
Women with breast cancer get surgery as an initial part of their treatment. Breast cancer surgery may vary according to the reason and type of breast tumour. To elaborately describe these surgeries, two broad categories are discussed below:
It is the removal of a breast tumour along with the surrounding normal tissues. This breast cancer surgery is carried out to conserve as much part of the breast as possible. The amount of breast tissue removed depends on the size of the breast tumour and how much it has spread locally. This procedure can induce breast pain that can subside within a few days or weeks. This method is particularly used for individuals diagnosed with this condition at a young age. Also known as lumpectomy or partial mastectomy, this procedure is coupled with breast reconstruction surgery to restore the shape of the breast.
This is breast cancer surgery, where the complete breast is removed. The breast is amputated in addition to the nearby tissues and lymph nodes where the chance of spreading is high. Lymph nodes are generally removed as a part of mastectomy; however, there are cases where these are removed in a separate surgery. These surgeries are primarily of two types:
Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB)
In this procedure, the breast cancer specialist or surgeon injects a dye under the arm. The lymph nodes stained with the dye are targeted to remove, keeping the others intact as the stained lymph nodes are prone to cancer spread. This process decreases the chances of lymphedema, which is denoted by swollen lymph nodes.
Axillary lymph node dissection (ALND)
ALND is commonly used to remove as many as 20 lymph nodes without using any dye. This is a lesser-used technique, as SLNB solves most of the cases. However, it can still be the best resort in exceptional cases.
Going for radiation therapy helps to further kill the cancer cells after surgery and chemotherapy sessions. This localised treatment is planned depending on the type of surgery the patient went through, along with the stage of cancer. After a lumpectomy, it is recommended to reduce the chances of recurrence. On the other hand, this is beneficial in the cases of mastectomy when the tumour is larger than or equal to 5 cm. To understand the therapy in detail, we have described the types of radiation therapies used in breast cancer patients.
External Beam Radiation
This is the most extensively used radiation therapy on breast cancer patients. In this method, a machine is used to focus on the area affected, and then it is exposed to radiation. In patients who underwent the mastectomy process without any affected lymph nodes, the chest wall and the mastectomy scars are the focal points for radiation therapy.
Besides, the areas where the drains of the surgery are present are also focussed. In the case of lumpectomy, the whole breast area is under therapy, hence the name whole breast radiation. Further, the area where the lump or tumour exists (tumour bed) gets an extra dose of radiation as this area has the highest possibility of witnessing cancer relapse. If the lymph nodes under the arm are also affected by the cancer cells, they are also exposed to radiation.
The other variant of radiation therapy, known as Brachytherapy, is a part of accelerated partial breast irradiation. To know about these terms, read further.
Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation
Sometimes an additional tumour bed radiation is scheduled to decrease the risk of relapse; this session does not include the rest of the breast and neighbouring tissues, hence termed accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI). ABPI is vastly segregated into four categories, as discussed below.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT)
In this process, only a single but large dose of radiation is administered to the patient in the area from where the tumour is extracted. This is provided right after the breast cancer surgery before the incisions are sealed. The equipment required for this radiation therapy is not available in most places; hence, it is not commonly prescribed.
3D-Conformal Radiotherapy (3D-CRT)
In this method, machines with high accuracy are used to target the tumour bed. This is designed to save the neighbouring tissues that haven’t been affected by the cancer cells. This therapy is generally given two times on a daily basis for up to 2 weeks.
Intensity-Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT)
This is similar to 3D-CRT; however, the intensity of radiation can be changed according to the need. That implies some areas get a stronger dosage of radiation while others get a minimal dosage. This technique has a higher precision than the rest ensuring lower levels of side effects like burns and irritated skin.
Commonly known as internal radiation, brachytherapy is another popular way to undergo radiation therapy. In this method, there is no use of external beams. Instead of external radiation, a device containing radioactive pellets is used and placed inside the tumour bed breast tissues for a short span. Patients who undergo partial mastectomy go through this procedure solely as a part of accelerated partial breast irradiation.
Systemic Approaches to Breast Cancer Treatment
Treating breast cancer with drugs comes under a systemic approach. In this process, drugs are induced through veins and muscles to reach our bloodstream. On the other hand, this reaches all parts of our body only to have systemic symptoms in addition to treating cancer. Below are the commonly administered systemic approaches extensively used to treat breast tumours.
Breast Cancer-Specific Chemotherapy
Many people search for how to cure breast cancer naturally. Unfortunately, no way is known to mankind that can naturally eliminate cancer from our bodies. But chemotherapy has been an effective way to deal with most types of cancer, including breast cancer. In most cases, chemotherapy is recommended to be administered in a day-care ward of a breast cancer hospital. Chemotherapy is distinguished according to the time when it is prescribed.
This is the chemotherapy prescribed before undergoing surgery. This is particularly recommended in cases where imaging tests cannot provide ample data on the spread of cancer cells because of their microscopic nature. These cells pose a danger as they have a higher tendency to spread in adjacent parts when not removed at the earliest. This is the most common chemotherapy suggested as it tremendously lowers the chances of cancer recurrence and increases the breast cancer cure rate.
This therapy is designed to be administered before conducting breast cancer surgery. When the breast tumour is enlarged, doctors prefer shrinking the size and furthering the treatment. This is also helpful when too many lymph nodes are affected due to the spread of cancer. Plus, it is beneficial to check how the cancer cells respond to the treatment. In many cases where the cancer is diagnosed early, neoadjuvant chemotherapy can solely help eliminate the cancer cells.
Drugs used in Adjuvant and Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy
Some of the drugs used for breast cancer include taxanes, like docetaxel and paclitaxel. Anthracyclines like epirubicin and doxorubicin are also effective. Carboplatin, like paraplatin and cyclophosphamide, like Cytoxan, are also successfully used for the same. The drugs particularly used for metastasised breast cancer cell includes drugs like halaven from the eribulin family, gemzar from the gemcitabine family, and xeloda from the capecitabine family. Platinum agents like carboplatin and cisplatin have also been effective in many cases of metastasized breast cancer cells. Doctors recommend breast cancer diet cures with these medicines to help deal with this long treatment and its side effects. A high-protein diet with hydrating food is appropriate during the chemotherapy course.
Targeted therapy for Breast Cancer
As the name goes, targeted therapy targets particular molecules to treat breast cancer. Hormone therapy and protein-specific therapies are a part of this procedure that specifically kills cancer cells without harming much of the adjacent cells and tissues.
As per studies, 2 out of 3 breast cancer cases are found to be hormone receptor-positive to hormones like oestrogen and progesterone. Every cancer cell has receptors proteinaceous in nature. These receptors attach to any one of these hormones and proliferate. The cells stop growing if they are somehow inhibited from attaching to these hormones, and that is exactly what is done through hormone therapy. This therapy makes it easy to reach the cancer cells and cease their growth irrespective of their location. If the patient has hormone receptor-positive cancer cells, then hormone therapy comes to the rescue. This therapy can be used both as adjuvant and neoadjuvant therapies, that is, after or before tumour surgery.
Cysts in breast are also treated with hormone therapy, but the process and drugs vastly differ. Unlike tumours, cysts in breast are easier to treat and cannot spread to other body parts. They remain localised without hampering much of the body’s functions.
Duration of Hormone Therapy
Any hormone therapy designed for breast cancer has to be continued for a span of at least 5 years. Women with a higher grade of cancer cells are advised to go through the treatment for a longer span. This is usually deduced according to a test termed as Breast Cancer Index.
Drugs Used as a Part of Hormone Therapy
Hormone receptor-positive breast cancers are mostly positive for oestrogen. That’s why the number of drugs associated with the same are synthesised in plenty across the globe. These drugs (selective oestrogen receptor modulators or SERMs) are mostly administered orally and do not have drastic side effects like other treatment procedures, as chemotherapy and surgery do. Below are the types of drugs that have a high success rate of inhibiting hormone receptor-positive cancer cells from feeding on oestrogen and growing.
This drug is specifically used on women who have not yet undergone menopause. This drug has drastically reduced the chances of cancer recurrence for women who went through BCS. It can also be used on women susceptible to breast cancer. It is an excellent breast care way for them, specifically when they have a history of breast cancer in their family. This has worked its magic on many patients with early-stage cancer. Even if the patient suffers from later-stage metastasised cancer, this drug can effectively slow down cancer cell growth.
Commonly called fareston, this drug work similarly to tamoxifen. However, the use of this drug is limited and is particularly used in patients who have undergone menopause. It is also used for metastasised cancer.
Targeted Therapy for HER2-Positive Breast cancer
HER2 is a cancer cell growth-promoting protein; people diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer have accelerated cancer cell growth unlike, HER2 negative cancer. To treat such cancer, drugs with monoclonal antibodies like trastuzumab and pertuzumab are used. Besides, antibody-drug conjugates like ado-trastuzumab emtansine and fam-trastuzumab deruxtecan are broadly used. With these drugs, kinase inhibitors like lapatinib, tucatinib, and neratinib are also beneficial as HER2 proteins are kinases.
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) Specific Targeted Therapy
TNBC denotes the type of breast cancer where the cells neither respond to oestrogen and progesterone nor to the HER2 protein. In such cases, drugs like trodelvy, a group of monoclonal antibodies, are used to subside any chance of relapse.
Targeted Therapy Specific for Women with BRCA gene Mutations
The BRCA gene is responsible for inducing breast cancer among women. If a BRCA (BRCA1 and BRCA2) gene test shows positive results, it indicates a mutation in the gene, and the person is likely to get breast cancer in the future. To avoid facing such circumstances, oncologists prescribe PARP-inhibiting drugs.
PARP proteins are associated with repairing damaged DNA, just like BRCA. In the case of a damaged BRCA gene, PARP inhibitors block the growth of cancer cells leading to apoptosis or programmed cell death of the cancer cells. Even if you do not have any symptoms of breast cancer, like breast pain and size changes, you should go through the BRCA gene test if your close-knit family has had a history.
This will help you address any mutations fast and have a future devoid of breast cancer.
Can breast cancer be cured completely?
Yes, breast cancer is curable, provided it is diagnosed at the first few stages of its growth.
How long can you live after being cured of breast cancer?
Over 85% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer survive for more than 5 years. Around 75% of the women survive for over 10 years.
What happens after breast cancer is cured?
After you are declared cancer free, you should go through regular follow-up sessions, in addition to going through various medical examinations and physical check-ups. Proper breast care is the ultimatum to having a long life span after curing breast cancer.
How long does it take to cure breast cancer?
Breast cancer requires extensive treatment. From surgery and chemotherapy to radiation and hormone therapy, the procedure takes over 5 years to heal from the condition completely.