Advances are helping to catch the disease sooner, and are offering more targeted therapies and surgeries.
From breast imaging to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, there have been many improvements and breakthroughs in the battle again breast cancer over the past few years, says Dr. Preya Ananthakrishnan, Director of Breast Cancer at White Plains Hospital. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s a look at the tremendous technologies and techniques available to women today:
Chemotherapy and other drug treatments used to be more of a blanket decision—one size fits all—for most patients. But today’s options are more targeted and tailored to each person’s specific cancer. In fact, doctors are now better able to determine who even needs chemotherapy, and if so, which drugs to use to treat each receptor on a tumor. Radiation therapy has also been refined and is now sometimes localized to a specific region of the breast rather than directed at the whole area. This means cancer cells are targeted, while the rest of the tissues are spared.
Genetic testing for breast cancer vulnerability is making great strides. While two genes, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, are the best-known genes linked to an increased susceptibility to the disease, there are now expanded panel tests to check for more than 20 genes associated with increased cancer risk.
This exciting technology allows doctors to take a closer, more precise look at the breast—and 3-D imaging returns fewer false positives than regular mammography. In most cases, insurers now fully cover 3-D imaging in New York, and it’s becoming more widely available. Most hospitals and medical centers, including White Plains Hospital, now have at least one 3-D mammography machine.
Improved cosmetics are a bright spot in the world of breast cancer surgery. Some mastectomies can now be performed through incisions under the breast, leaving the nipple and skin intact. When combined with immediate reconstruction by a plastic surgeon, the cosmetic results are wonderful—it can be difficult to even tell that someone has had a mastectomy.
Not long ago, women had to put up with months of lag time and significant pain while undergoing multiple surgeries for reconstruction (an expander would be placed initially, followed by an implant at a second surgery). Today, an implant can go directly in during the same operation as a mastectomy, which makes it a single procedure with much less pain and no more waiting or painful office procedures. In another surgical advance, pre-pectoral reconstruction places the implant above the muscle (rather than under it). This results in less pain and a quicker post-op recovery.