A cancer diagnosis can be a frightening thing for the over 200,000 women who are diagnosed each year. As of right now, there is no breast cancer cure. However, there are numerous breast cancer treatment options for women. These range from methods that have been around for decades, such as surgery and radiation, to new and upcoming proton radiation therapy. Below is a brief breakdown of the many options available.
Cancer treatment is separated into local treatments or systemic treatment. The difference is simply that local treatment focuses on the exact location of the tumor. Systemic treatments treat the whole system. Your doctor will recommend which to try first.
As local treatment focuses solely on the tumor, a direct approach is attempted first. Surgery to remove the tumor is attempted, and followed up with radiation. This may take the form of external or internal beams, both of which use high energy rays similar to an X-ray.
The actual radiation is reported to not be painful, nor does the actual radiation period take very long. What may actually be time consuming is when the specialist carefully marks the skin to ensure the beams hit the exact area where the tumor was. One new option for treatment at this stage is proton beam radiation.
While not a breast cancer cure, proton cancer treatment has some promising statistics in clinical studies. Radiation, whether external or internal, has the undesirable tendency to be directed into the tissue until it reaches the tumor, travels through it, and continues on a path to the other side as well. This presents the challenge of administering radiation to shrink the cancerous cells, while also administering that radiation to healthy tissues.
Proton therapy is exciting to some oncologists because while it does target the tumor with its beams, the beams stop when they reach the tumor and go no further. Studies have shown that using proton therapy instead of traditional radiation on average results in a 50% reduction in beams hitting the lungs, and none touching the patient’s heart. For those patients with prostate cancer receiving treatment, the results have also been promising, with about 94% of male patients able to avoid impotency while on a treatment schedule.
The length of time for the treatment is not greatly reduced however. The average patient will still have a set-up time of between 15 to 45 minutes. Actually time under the proton beams is only a few minutes. The real difference is said to be in the reduced risk of damaging healthy tissues in the pursuit to be rid of the cancer.
There are many treatments, but no breast cancer cure as of yet. With promising new treatment options such as proton therapy, the diagnosis of breast cancer does not need to be as frightening as it once was. Each patient has their own unique requirements for treatment. Make sure you discuss your options with your doctor to see what will work best for you.