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Latest Developments in Breast Cancer Treatment

   
 
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MS/Cancer SHG members started the new year learning about the latest developments in breast cancer treatment.

Dr. Banu Arun spoke on the conference call about the risk, diagnosis and update on breast cancer treatment. Dr. Arun is a professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and is co-medical director for Clinical Cancer Genetics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Statistics show that breast cancer is the number one cancer diagnosis and the second leading cause of death in women. Lung cancer is the leading cause.

Dr. Arun reported that even though doctors see more new breast cancer cases, fewer patients are dying from diseases. 

Dr. Arun said, "Doctors are curing more breast cancer cases through more effective treatment. For example, now Stage 1 is 90 percent curable."

One reason for increased success is increased and improved screening. Dr. Arun recommends women at age 40 start getting annual mammograms.

The following tests and procedures may be used for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment:
Physical exam: to check general signs of health, including for signs of disease, such as lumps. 
Clinical breast exam: An exam of the breast and under the arms by a doctor or other health professional. 
Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast.
Ultrasound exam: High-energy sound waves are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes that form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. 
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): Magnet and radio waves make a series of detailed pictures of specified body areas. 
Blood chemistry studies: Measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. 
Biopsy: Removal of cells or tissues for testing.

Hereditary breast cancer makes up about five to ten percent of all breast cancer. Tests can detect mutated genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 and can be performed on family members with high risks of cancer. A woman's risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer greatly is increased if she inherits a harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.

Most breast cancer is detected through mammogram screening. If something abnormal is seen, a physician may recommend performing a biopsy or schedule a second test in the future. If no change is seen, the abnormality probably isn't cancer.

A patient's prognosis and treatment options depend on the following:
The stage of the cancer.
The type of breast cancer.
Estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor levels in the tumor tissue.
How fast the tumor is growing.
How likely the tumor is to recur.
A woman's age, general health and menopausal status.
Whether the cancer has been recently diagnosed or has recurred.

Standard treatments are surgery, sentinel lymph node biopsy followed by surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.

Tamoxifen is a drug that can reduce the risk of breast cancer by blocking estrogen. This can reduce the incidence of breast cancer by 50 percent. 

"We are working hard to find drugs and agents that prevent breast cancer and that do not have side effects." Dr. Arun said. 

Researchers also are studying natural and herbal compounds for potential use.

Dr. Arun recommends a woman be active in breast awareness and look for these changes in her breasts:
A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
The size or shape of the breast changing.
A dimple or puckering in the breast skin.
Changes in a nipple.
Fluid, other than breast milk, from the nipple, especially if it's bloody.
Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple or areola.

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