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5 things experts say you need to know about breast cancer treatment

Every breast cancer diagnosis is unique, as is each treatment plan.
(Photo: Thinkstock)

This content is presented by HonorHealth.

If you get a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s important to remember that each diagnosis is unique, and so is its treatment.

Coral Quiet, MD, a breast cancer radiologist on the medical staff at HonorHealth, specializes in brachytherapy. This treatment therapy uses radiation sources — usually tiny pellets the size of a pencil lead — inside and next to a cancer. Brachytherapy also can be used inside an area that may harbor traces of cancer after a tumor is surgically removed.

“Because it’s a reduced dose, and it’s not penetrating very far, we can treat the area twice a day. This means the full course of radiation can be completed in as few as five days versus a typical six-week treatment,” Dr. Quiet said.

She said patients and their families should know these five facts about breast cancer treatment:

1. Not all breast cancers are the same.

There are many different types of breast cancer. Some are fast-growing and aggressive while others grow slowly.

2. Standard tumor detection size is getting smaller.

Thanks to improving mammography technology and detection methods, radiologists are getting better at detecting lumps that are 8mm and smaller. This is easiest in breasts that aren’t dense - that have more fatty tissue. Earlier detection means less invasive treatment.

3. The more radiation, the more side effects.

Less invasive forms of radiation that target only a small area of the breast reduce downtime, skin redness and other physical side effects for the patient. Although these minimally invasive options have been available since 1999, not all treatment centers around the country offer them.

4. Breast cancer treatment is more personalized.

Doctors are getting better at offering more personalized treatments. This means less toxicity and shorter therapies for lower-risk cancers. For cancers with a higher risk of recurrence, doctors can offer more aggressive and successful therapies.

5. Breast cancer treatment is more successful.

Over the past 10 years, breast cancer deaths have continued to decline due to improvements in screening mammograms and identifying families at risk for hereditary breast cancer. Also, there have been marked improvements in chemotherapy.

To learn more about personalized breast cancer treatment, click here.