Breast Cancer Therapy

Further treatment may be necessary after surgery. This can be in the form of:

1.) Radiotherapy: This is routinely given after breast conserving surgery for invasive breast cancer and occasional given in cases of insitu cancer (DCIS).For Bay of Plenty patients, radiotherapy is administered at the Kathleen Kilgour Centre in Tauranga for a period of 3 or 5 weeks depending on the treatment regime chosen.  Side effects will be discussed with the patient and this can include tiredness, discomfort and local radiation effect on the skin and surrounding tissue.

2.) Hormonal Therapy: This is an effective treatment that comes in a tablet form and used in cases where the breast cancer have been found to be oestrogen receptor positive. There are several types that can be used and these include Tamoxifen, Anastrazole (Arimidex), Letrozole (Letara, Femara) and Exemestane (Aromasin). The tablet is usually taken once a day for a period of 5 years, sometimes longer. Studies have shown that it significantly reduces the incidence of recurrence in patients who have oestrogen receptor positive cancer.

3.) Chemotherapy: This is sometimes recommended, particularly in younger premenopausal patients and is dependent on tumour staging. There are several chemotherapeutic drugs that are effective in breast cancer treatment (anthracycline and taxanes) and chemotherapy is usually administered over a 4 – 6 months period depending on the drug combination used. In the Bay of Plenty, chemotherapy is administered locally at the Cancer Centre in Tauranga Hospital or at the cancer clinic in Whakatane Hospital. If required, a referral will be made by the surgeon to the Medical Oncologist so that the patient can have a thorough discussion regarding the benefit and risks of having chemotherapy.

4.) Herceptin: 20% of breast cancers have been found to over-express a specific type of receptor on the tumour cells. These so called Her2 receptors are growth factor receptors involved in the signalling pathway for cell growth. Trastuzumab, a drug more commonly known by it’s trade name Herceptin, is an effective treatment agent and acts by blocking these receptors . Studies have shown a significant decrease in the risk of recurrence and also improvement in overall survival. At this stage, Herceptin is given concurrently with chemotherapy and once the chemotherapy course is completed, the Herceptin treatment is continued for a total treatment period of one year.

5.) Other drug treatment are being studied in ongoing research with promising results. For example, PARP inhibitors and Immunotherapy shows promising results in specific settings and various other projects are underway to look at new targets of treatment.

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