What is the treatment for breast cancer?
Treatment for early breast cancer aims to remove the cancer and to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading or coming back. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Usually more than one treatment is used.
Your doctor will advise you on the best treatment for your breast cancer. The choice of treatment will depend on your test results; where the cancer is and if it has spread; your age and general health; and what you choose.
You may know other people with breast cancer but remember there are different types of breast cancer and the best treatment for one person may not be best for another.
If your cancer hasn’t spread, you will almost certainly be offered surgery.
Surgery For Breast Cancer
If your cancer hasn’t spread, you will almost certainly be offered surgery to remove the colon. Unlike other cancers of gastrointestinal system, cases where in colon cancer has spread to other areas, surgery is performed and is of proven benefit. This is very unique to colon cancers treatment.
If you are found suitable for the surgery, you will be usually admitted one day prior to the proposed date of surgery. There are no dietary restrictions for a breast surgery. You will have your armpits shaved for the surgery. You will be given a consent form for your signature.
The form would have details of the procedure to be performed on you by your treating surgeon. In case you have any doubts you should feel free to ask them to the surgical team.
The size and position of the tumour in the breast and lumps (nodes) at the armpit will determine the extent of breast surgery.
Some women want to keep their breast at all costs. Others want a mastectomy, because they want to feel the cancer has gone or they prefer not to have radiotherapy. Both treatment approaches work equally well for early breast cancer.
Surgery for breast cancer will involve one of the following: Breast Conserving Surgery (removal of part of the breast) orMastectomy (removal of whole breast). In most cases, breast surgery also involves removal of lymph nodes from the armpit.
BREST CONSERVATION SURGERY:
As the name suggests, the breast is not removed but conserved while only the abnormal lump is removed. Breast conserving surgery is offered if the cancer is small compared to the size of your breast. The surgeon removes the entire abnormal lump along with a sufficient margin of surrounding normal breast tissue (Wide local excision). This is then sent for testing immediately (Frozen section studies) to determine if all the abnormal tissue from the breast has been removed. The doctor gets the result within 10 minutes.
The pathologist examines the removed breast tissue to see if there is an area of healthy cells all around the cancer – this is known as a clear margin. If cancer cells are found at the edge of the removed tissue, this increases the chance of cancer returning. You may need more tissue removed (re-excision) or your doctor may recommend a mastectomy (removal of entire breast)
It is then followed by removal of the lymph nodes from under the armpit on the same side as the lump.
A small tube is then kept at the site of the surgery.
Radiotherapy (radiation treatment) is a must to the breast after a breast conserving surgery and is a part of Breast Conservation treatment
Surgery to remove the whole breast is called mastectomy. The nipple and the surrounding dark area (areola) is also removed. The chest muscles are not removed. Some or all of the lymph nodes in the armpit closest to your affected breast may also be removed. You may be offered a mastectomy if the cancer is large compared to the size of the breast or the cancer is in more than one area of the breast.
Thin tubes are usually kept to drain out all the fluid that forms over the chest area after a breast surgery.
Following a complete removal of the breast, the breast can be reconstructed. During a breast reconstruction, the breast shape is recreated using either an implant or tissue from another part of your body. Some surgeons do the reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy. Others prefer to wait for several months or longer. Talk to your surgeon about what is best for you.
You will be transferred to the room after the surgery and the overall hospital stay is usually between 3-4 days. Your pain and discomfort will be taken care of by the anaesthetic team. You will be given pain-killers and an intravenous infusion (drip) to replace your body’s fluids until you are able to drink and eat again after a few hours.
After your operation you will be encouraged to start moving about as soon as possible. This is an essential part of your recovery. If you have to stay in bed the nurses will encourage you to do regular leg movements and deep breathing exercises. You will be seen by a physiotherapist who can help you to do the exercises.
The fluid coming out of the tubes will be measured on a daily basis.
Drinking and eating after surgery
You will probably be ready to start taking small sips of water within 6 hours of your surgery; however your doctors will tell you when it is appropriate for you to start drinking some fluids. You should be able to eat a regular light diet on the next day of your operation.
After a mastectomy or if you have surgery to your armpit, your surgeon and nurse will ask you to do regular exercises to help you recover. Your arm may feel stiff on the side where your breast was removed. Simple arm exercises can help to give you back your full range of movement, relive pain and stiffness and reduce swelling
After surgery, do the exercises until you have full movement back in your arm and shoulder. Ideally, you should do these twice a day.
To start with, the exercises are quite gentle. The aim is to get your arm and shoulder moving as it was before the surgery. You can begin each session by circling your shoulders, to get the muscles moving. Other early exercises are brushing or combing your hair, putting your arms behind your back and touching your shoulder with your hand. As you get stronger and more confident, you can do more of the exercises and gradually increase the range of movements.
You will probably be ready to go home in about two days after your operation. You will be discharged with the tubes and asked to keep a check on the quantity of fluid coming out daily from the tubes. By and large you should be able to do all your routine household work after your discharge from the hospital. The tubes may be removed from anywhere between 7-10 days from your surgery date.
Before you leave hospital you will be given an appointment for a post-operative check-up at the outpatient clinic. You should have the detailed report of the tumor by a week’s time and your doctor will be in a better position to explain what is the next best step to be taken for your treatment.