Developments in the treatment of breast cancer
Advancements in the accuracy of radiation therapy delivery, results in reduced short term and long term toxicities with improved outcomes.
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that forms in the cells of the breast. Although mostly found in women, men can get breast cancer too. There are a number of symptoms associated with breast cancer, but the first noticeable symptom is often a lump or area of thickened breast tissue. A lump in the breast does not necessarily mean you have cancer - most breast lumps are not cancerous. However, it is always best to have them checked by your doctor. Treatment for breast cancer may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy or bone-directed therapy.
Surgery is the mainstay of the treatment and is often accompanied by other modalities of management. The sequence of these modalities varies as per the stage and the biology of the disease.
Radiation therapy has been one of the important and an integral treatment modality for the breast cancer management for decades. The way we deliver radiotherapy has drastically changed over the years with the breakthrough improvements in the technology. The advent of modern-day linear accelerators along with the complex and highly sophisticated computerized treatment planning systems have allowed radiotherapy to be delivered in a very precise manner. This helps the radiation oncology team to deliver the optimum dose of radiation to the target site while keeping it minimally spilled over the surrounding organs like heart and lungs.
Breast cancer survival has improved a lot in last two decades due to the presence of options in systemic therapies and thus it is important to reduce the late toxicities for these patients. The latest radiotherapy machines, radiation treatment planning software and a well-trained radiation oncology team can achieve the best possible results.
The treatment duration per session is for a few minutes and does not cause any discomfort. The total duration of treatment varies from 3 weeks to 6-7 weeks, depending upon the stage of the disease. Generally, radiotherapy is given 5 days a week, keeping 2 days per week for the normal tissues to repair.
Patients these days tolerate radiotherapy for breast cancer very well. Apart from advancement in radiotherapy technology, the early detection still plays a vital role in better patient outcomes, as in any other cancer.