Once you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your healthcare team will talk with you about a variety of treatment options. While many treatments are available, each person will have a treatment regimen that's geared to her particular cancer. There are currently five widely accepted treatments for breast cancer. These include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy. They often are used in combination.
Two main surgical options are:
Mastectomy—Removal of the entire breast (not only the affected tissue)
Lumpectomy—Removal of only the cancer and a margin of surrounding healthy tissue
Various types of reconstructive surgery also can be performed, either at the time the cancer is removed or in future surgeries. Sentinel node biopsy is also performed on patients with known invasive breast cancer cells. This enables the surgeon to identify the specific node that would be affected first if the cancer were to spread. If this node contains cancer then additional nodes (referred to as an axillary node dissection) are also removed from under the arm.
While cancer treatments can cause some bothersome side effects, it is important to follow the treatment plan designed for you by your healthcare team. Talk to your healthcare provider about any side effects you may experience. Medication can combat conditions such as nausea or fatigue, which are often associated with chemotherapy. Go to all your scheduled treatments, take your medications as prescribed and concentrate on doing what your healthcare team believes is best for you—mind and body. Remember, the discomfort and inconvenience during therapy is an investment you are making in your future well-being.