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There are many very good and improved breast cancer treatments compared to even 20 years ago. The best cure for breast cancer is when the cancer has been found at an early stage, before it has a chance to spread. Most often, breast cancers today are diagnosed at an early stage due to screening with yearly mammograms, and in most cases women will have a low risk of getting breast cancer again. Breast cancer advances that have helped give a better survival are:
- Earlier diagnosis with mammograms and increased awareness of breast cancer.
- Better surgical treatment with fewer side effects -- for example, rather than removing many of the lymph nodes under the arm, we now remove the “sentinel” lymph nodes, meaning the first lymph nodes that the breast drains to, usually 1 to 3 nodes. This gives a very low risk of arm swelling down the road.
- Better and more targeted chemotherapy. The tumor itself can be looked at with gene tests to determine if chemotherapy will be needed.
- Hormonal therapy with a pill that is taken for 5 to 10 years, which decreases recurrence of breast cancer in half.
- Improved radiation therapy with fewer side effects.
There are often cures for breast cancer when diagnosed early. Infiltrative ductal carcinoma or breast cancer that is limited to the milk duct region have a higher rate of cure. Infiltrative lobular carcinoma has a lesser rate of cure as it is often found in bilateral breasts. When breast cancer spreads beyond the lymph nodes it can metastasize to bone, liver, lung and brain. It may be difficult to cure as it has become completely metastatic. Small tumors that are diagnosed early have a higher rate of cure in which lumpectomies, axillary lymph node dissection, and radiation can be performed.
Some types of breast cancer can be cured. One of the most curable types is also one of the most common: ductal carcinoma in situ, or breast cancer that is limited to the milk ducts. Twenty to 30 percent of all breast cancer cases are this type, and it can almost always be cured.
However, there are several types and stages of breast cancer, and some arenapos;t as curable. If breast cancer has spread past the breast and lymph nodes, it can seldom be cured. Still, most women with this type of breast cancer survive two years or more, and some survive up to 20 years with treatment.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.