Women today are fortunate to have more options available to them than previous generations had, but each treatment still comes with its own side effects to consider.
Regaining health and wellness takes time and effort, and treatment options have varying recovery times. Talking with your doctor and doing your own research can help you better understand which treatment is best for you so you can choose the most fitting path to recovery.
Here are some of the most common breast-cancer treatments:
Lumpectomy. A lumpectomy is performed when the cancer appears not to have spread. The tumor and the tissue around it are removed from the breast, but the rest of the breast is conserved. Depending on how large the tumor is, you could have anywhere from just a small area to up to a quarter of your breast removed. Hence, even though a lumpectomy is meant to preserve the breast, it can still be invasive and change the look and feel of your breast.
Mastectomy. A mastectomy describes the procedure in which one breast is removed. As opposed to the lumpectomy, this means that the cancer has spread beyond the tumor into the rest of the surrounding breast tissue. As a result, the best course of action is to surgically remove the breast before the cancer cells spread further throughout the body. Following mastectomy, some women choose to undergo breast-reconstruction surgery to rebuild their breast, and they often have surgery done on the mate as well to make sure the breasts look symmetric.
Double Mastectomy. A double mastectomy removes both breasts. In some cases this is because there is cancer in both breasts, but in other cases, the patients opt to have a double mastectomy as a safety measure. In other words, they might fear that the cancer will return in the other breast so they have it removed to prevent such an occurrence. This is a surgery that is increasingly performed (the number of double mastectomies done in this country has grown 150% since 1998); however, it is important to remember that in some cases, cancer still does return. Also, in some cases, a woman might have a very low risk of the cancer returning, in which case a double mastectomy might be too extreme of a decision. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your options and discover what course of action is right for you.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy medications are given to combat and destroy cancer cells. They can be used in conjunction with other breast-cancer treatments and are often used to ensure that the cancerous cells do not return or proliferate. Although the medications can be life-saving, they also come with side effects. Unlike surgery, which is performed locally, chemotherapy drugs travel throughout your bloodstream and affect your whole body. Talk to your doctor about what side effects to expect.
Radiation. Radiation is used to help prevent the return of cancer cells after breast-cancer treatment. It is usually done in conjunction with one or more of the above treatments, and although many women are frightened of the procedure, the good news is that it is usually not as painful and uncomfortable as women imagine. Irritated skin at the site of the radiation is one of the most common symptoms, and your doctor can help you manage this side effect among any others.
Discuss your treatment options with your doctor and spend some thinking about which course is best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s important to be prepared when it comes to side effects and aftercare.