Breast Cancer Awareness

Advances In Breast Cancer Treatments Give Hope During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

During the month of October, cancer organizations as well as health care facilities, festivals, and local and national sports teams promote breast cancer awareness in communities throughout Anchorage. Although breast cancer is still the second most common type of cancer for women in the United States, behind skin cancer, millions of women are surviving the disease due in part to early detection and improvements in breast cancer treatment.

Breast cancer mostly affects women over 40, but men can have it too. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women, just behind lung cancer. However, there are more than 2.8 million cancer survivors in the U.S. The American Cancer Society estimates that almost a quarter of a million women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year.

That’s why annual screenings for breast cancer are so important. When detected early, breast cancer treatment is available in Anchorage. Breast cancer may show up in many different ways. It could just be a small spot found on an annual mammogram. Or it could be a web of cancerous cells spread throughout the breast and body. These varied types of breast cancer require a variety of treatment options, such as:

Surgery. The primary treatment for breast cancer is surgery, which is often followed by radiation therapy. A lumpectomy removes just the cancerous cells, while a mastectomy is sometimes used when the entire breast is needed to be removed.

Radiation Therapy. Radiation oncologists can deliver high doses of radio waves to cancerous cells to make them unable to multiply. When these cells die, the body naturally gets rid of them. Healthy tissue is able to repair itself. There are a variety of types of radiation therapy including external beam radiation, 3D-CRT, and CyberKnife radiosurgery. CyberKnife is often used when doctors want to target specific tumors and avoid damaging surrounding healthy tissue. CyberKnife is also often used for recurrent or metastasized breast cancer as it can be prescribed for patients who have had previous radiation, surgery or chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is medication prescribed by a medical oncologist to destroy cancer cells that may have traveled elsewhere in the body.

Hormonal therapy. Your medical oncologist could prescribe medication to block the effects of hormones that may be helping your tumor grow.

Brachytherapy. This is an internal radiation treatment that involves placing flexible plastic tubes called catheters or a balloon into the breast.

Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). This treatment involves doctors delivering radiation to the breast during surgery. The long-term results of these techniques are still being studied. Talk with your radiation oncologist for more information.

With all of these breast cancer treatment options available in Anchorage, it is important to have discussion with your doctors, oncologists, and radiation oncologists so that you fully understand the treatment options that would be best for your unique situation. But, the first step, is an annual mammogram, which is covered by most insurances. If all of those who are wearing pink this month create an atmosphere that spurs every woman to get her annual mammogram, Breast Cancer Awareness Month will be considered a success.

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