October 2021

Good News for Breast Cancer Patients: The Latest Treatments Improve Health and Well-being


A breast cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming and scary. But every day, scientists make progress on helping patients live longer—and better.

In fact, treatment for breast cancer has advanced a lot over the past few decades. Here are some of the latest signs of progress.

Treatments tailored to your tumors

No two cancers are exactly the same. Now, experts can use advanced tools to understand each one, down to the genes and molecules.

Your healthcare provider will test your cancer for certain compounds. These include proteins and the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Specific medicines can then target your unique cancer cells while causing less damage to normal cells. This is called targeted therapy.

Harnessing your immune system

You already have a potent weapon against disease—your immune system. Newer breast cancer treatments take advantage of its power. Treatments called immunotherapies train your own body to better identify and destroy cancer cells.

New medicine combos

Medicines such as targeted therapies and immunotherapies can also be combined with other medicines. This includes chemotherapy, which kills cancer cells or stops them from dividing.

What’s more, these medicines can be used alongside surgery and radiation. This way, your treatment team can create a total approach to restoring your health.

Preserving fertility

Some treatments may make it harder to have a baby later on. For instance, chemotherapy can damage your ovaries.

There are now steps you can take before and during treatment to make it easier to have a family later on. For instance, you might freeze your eggs.

Research shows you can do this and still successfully treat your cancer. Talk with your provider about your options.

Reducing symptoms and side effects

Cancer and its treatments can cause other problems with your physical and mental health. These include sexual side effects, mood changes, and stomach trouble.

Your care plan should include ways to manage these issues. Fortunately, there are many options that can help.

Some include new medicines. Non-medicine regimens—such as acupuncture or music therapy—can help, too. In addition, nutrition and physical activity can diminish fatigue and increase your quality of life.

Giving back while getting the best treatment

Finally, talk with your healthcare provider about clinical trials. These studies help scientists find new treatments and approaches.

Taking part in clinical trials often means access to top-of-the-line therapies. Along the way, you’re also helping move cancer science forward to an even brighter future.




Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
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