What Are the Treatment Options for Breast Cancer?

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For most women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, not all, the first step is surgery. And in general, the options for surgery are lumpectomy, followed by radiation, or a larger surgery, what we call myostetemy, which means removal of the whole breast usually without radiation.

In general, one of the most misunderstood concepts is that, for women who are eligible for lumpectomy, survival is the same when you compare lumpectomy and mastectomy. It's sort of counter intuitive for patients who are not newly diagnosed to understand that doing bigger surgery, and more expensive surgery, does not lead to improved survival.

Its important to know that it doesn't. And that's a really important piece of information, perhaps the most critical in making a decision about what type of surgery to have. There are definitely scenarios where lumpectomy is not doable for some patients. If someone has one very large cancer, lumpectomy may not be feasible to take out just a small portion of the breast, get it all out, and leave the woman with a result that she's gonna be happy with.

Other scenarios where lumpectomy may not be appropriate involves if the person has multiple separate cancers in that same breast. But for most women, lumpectomy is an option. And that is discussed with the surgeon. And that conversation is usually the first step. What's also incorporated with surgery, whether a woman chooses or needs to have a lumpectomy or mastectomy, can involve checking lymph nodes under the arm to find out if the cancer has spread.

The standard procedure for doing that, in today's day and age, is what we call sentinel node biopsy. To take out just a few lymph nodes to find out if the cancer has spread after surgery is done. Many patients with invasive breast cancer will see an oncologist to decide if they need additional treatment.

Some women, particularly those who have a lumpectomy, will require radiation as part of their treatment. Lumpectomy and radiation, in general, comes as a package deal together. [MUSIC].