Recent Advances in Breast Cancer Treatment
Most people know that cancer is a leading cause of death – responsible for 10 million deaths worldwide annually. But do they know that cancer can conceal itself, sending messages to the body that it is healthy — all while using the body’s systems to help itself grow undetected?
Cancer cells are smart, but luckily, science is getting smarter. This is especially true in the fight against the most common cancer in women — breast cancer. In recent years, the death rate for women with breast cancer has dropped by 1% each year, thanks to recent advances in treatment of breast cancer.
Detecting Breast Cancer
Like many types of cancer cells, breast cancer often masquerades as healthy cells — sometimes even turning off the body’s natural immune response so that tumors can grow undetected. While the immune system fails to signal that something is wrong, breast cancer can spread to other organs, most notably to the lymph nodes.
That’s why early detection is crucial, and regular mammograms save lives. One recent advance in breast cancer treatment is breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography. Doctors are also researching new imaging techniques, such as introducing radioactive drugs or particles that attach themselves to breast cancer cells, making them more visible and easier to treat.
Another advance in breast cancer treatment and imaging is the use of artificial intelligence software. Studies show that false positive results are very common and, more importantly, false negatives may also occur due to human error. While artificial intelligence is not yet advanced enough to replace human eyes, the use of the software and the review of a radiologist leads to more accurate test results.
Targeting Cancer Cells
When we think of advances in treatment of breast cancer, our minds often go to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be an effective way to kill cancer cells, but it also works to kill healthy cells along the way. Targeted therapy, which is a type of precision medicine, works only to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.
There are currently 18 different targeted therapy drugs approved to treat breast cancer by recognizing and attacking cancer cells. Methods of targeted therapy are growing more sophisticated in interfering with the growth of breast cancer cells and the cancer-causing genes that create them. One in particular, Avastin, blocks the growth of new blood vessels that cancer cells depend on to grow and function. Another, Herceptin, stops cancer cells from receiving chemical signals that tell the cells to grow.
Scientists are also looking to immunotherapy as a promising advance in treatment of breast cancer. The immune system is equipped to kill viruses, bacteria, and infected cells. But the problem with cancer is that abnormal cells are often not detected by the immune system, or they change and mutate so that they can evade the immune system. The goal of immunotherapy is to alert the immune system to the cancer cells, giving the system a chance to locate and destroy them. Immunotherapy has been used to successfully treat a wide variety of cancers, and is gaining traction in the fight against breast cancer.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides support to patients facing breast cancer. Our palliative care program provides treatment for side effects. Our hospice care program provides a higher level of support for patients with breast cancer approaching end of life. To learn more about our cancer hospice treatment, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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