5. The Nipple Sparing Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction
Sometimes a woman needs to have her whole breast removed to successfully fight her breast cancer. Surgeons have created a technique so that when you look at yourself in the mirror, it will be very difficult to see that you have had your breasts removed. The first innovation is the Nipple Sparing Mastectomy, whereby the breast surgeon uses a Hidden Scar technique to hide the incision in the inframammary fold, i.e. the crease at the bottom of your breast. Thus, when a woman stands up, the reconstructed breast will hide the surgical scar. The second innovation is the breast implants. These implants are now supple and shapelier so that your reconstructed breasts will look perky, feel softer and look more like your natural breast. The third innovation is the preservation of your nipple, as this technique removes nearly all the breast tissue while leaving in place the outside of your nipple. When the reconstruction is completed, you will look in the mirror and see your breasts and not your scars.
6. TCH and TC
The Red Devil, commonly known as Adriamycin (doxorubicin), is a chemotherapy drug that is highly effective in killing breast cancer cells. But it can have some brutal side effects, including heart failure and leukemia. Medical oncologists have learned that in many instances, paclitaxel or docetaxel (taxanes) can be substituted and in other cases, carboplatin can be substituted. While all chemotherapy can be difficult and have serious side effects, heart failure and leukemia from Adriamycin are particularly bad. And while often, women will need Adriamycin-based chemotherapy, in situations where Adriamycin can be omitted, women will have a lower risk of a life-threatening complication from chemotherapy.
7. Aromatase Inhibitors
The aromatase inhibitors are a group of anti-estrogen medications that have much fewer side effects than tamoxifen and provided a safer option for women who have estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. While tamoxifen is safe in premenopausal women, tamoxifen carries the risk of blood clots and uterine cancer in the postmenopausal women. The aromatase inhibitors completely shut down estrogen production and as such, are slightly more effective than tamoxifen at reducing the risk of recurrent cancer.
8. Axillary Radiation for Cancer in the Lymph Nodes
When breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, traditionally, surgeons have then removed all the lymph nodes, in the hopes that preventing an axillary recurrence, lives will be saved. Two major studies published in the past five years have demonstrated that radiation to the axilla (armpit) is no less effective than surgery and has one-half the risk of lymphedema. Axillary radiation to the axilla when breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes is another medical advancement that surgeons have pioneered to reduce the morbidity or side effects from breast cancer treatments.
Dedicated scientists and physicians are making great strides in identifying more effective, less traumatizing and safer treatments to fight breast cancer. We live in exciting times and the fight against breast cancer becomes stronger every day.