Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women. There are over 180,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed annually in the United States. However, the number of deaths caused by breast cancer has declined in recent years. These decreases are the result of earlier detection and improved treatment.
Incidence of Breast Cancer
The incidence of breast cancer is rising, it is usually successfully treated, especially when detected early. There are over 2 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today.
In general, breast cancer is divided into two types: invasive breast cancer and non- invasive breast cancer (carcinoma-in-situ). Non-invasive breast cancers grow inside the ducts of the breast and do not penetrate into surrounding breast tissue. These tumors do not spread to other sites of the body and have an excellent survival rate. Invasive breast cancers have the potential to spread to other sites in the body and range in stage from I-IV depending on the extent of disease. Your specific treatment will depend on the type and stage of your breast cancer.
Breast Conserving Therapy
Breast conserving therapy (BCT) is the removal of a tumor and portion of surrounding breast tissue followed by breast radiotherapy. It is the preferred treatment for many patients with early stage breast carcinoma. Studies have demonstrated equivalent overall survival for patients receiving breast conserving therapy as those patients treated by mastectomy.
The major advantages of breast conserving therapy when compared to mastectomy are quick surgical recovery, pleasing cosmetic outcome, and less psychological impact for some patients. The principal disadvantage of breast conservation is prolonged treatment duration requiring approximately 6 to 7 weeks of external beam radiation therapy.
Radiation treatments are delivered using a linear accelerator to the entire breast and, in some cases, the lymph nodes under the arm or in the supraclavicular region. The treatment course is usually delivered after completion of chemotherapy (if indicated) and consists of daily treatments, Monday through Friday, for five to six weeks. An additional “boost” (higher dose) is sometimes given to the area where the cancer was found in the breast. The actual treatment, which is administered by a highly skilled radiation therapist, takes only a few minutes a day and is painless.
Learn more about: Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer.