Breast Cancer: Know Your Type, Discover Your Options

Posted on May 30, 2014 in My Cancer Type

Breast Cancer: Know Your Type, Discover Your Options

A new breast cancer diagnosis brings a lot of information. The good news is that the prognosis is good when breast cancer is caught early. For advanced breast cancers, there are still many treatment options.

When making treatment decisions, it is important to know your breast cancer type. Some breast cancers respond to hormone therapy, while others don’t. Chemotherapy is beneficial for some tumors and not others.

It’s also helpful to develop an overall approach before beginning treatment. For example, some types of surgery need subsequent radiation, while others don’t. The timing of breast reconstruction is affected by whether you need radiation. Integrative breast cancer therapies can support your success through cancer treatment and throughout your life beyond cancer.

So, Where Do We Start?: Understanding a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

I can help you understand your biopsy report and scans. These can tell us how aggressive the tumor is likely to be, as well as what kinds of integrative and conventional treatments the tumor can respond to.

During your consult, I’ll explain what all the medical information means, and will use it to help you make wise treatment decisions.

How Do I Know My Breast Cancer Type?

There are a few key pieces of information that we review in your biopsy, scans, and blood tests:

  • Kind of breast cancer Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type. Others include lobular carcinoma and inflammatory carcinoma. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a precancerous condition.
  • Tumor’s response to hormones For example, a tumor can be “ER positive” if it uses estrogen to grow, or “ER negative if it is not sensitive to estrogen. ER-positive tumors can respond to hormonal therapies like Tamoxifen, while ER-negative tumors do not.
  • Genetic studies These tell us how aggressive the tumor is likely to be. Her-2 positive tumors are more aggressive than Her-2 negative tumors. However, Her-2 positive tumors can respond to the drug Herceptin. Ki-67 indicates how quickly the tumor cells are growing. BRCA mutation indicates aggressiveness. BRCA mutations increase the risk for other kinds of cancer and the gene is inherited, so this may also guide health care for you and your family.
  • Tumor grade tells us how similar the tumor is to normal breast cells. It is a good thing if the tumor is “high grade” or “well differentiated”. This means that the tumor is more similar to normal cells, and is less likely to grow or spread. Tumors that are “poorly differentiated” or “anaplastic” may need more thorough care.
  • Tumor stage explains where the tumor is in the body, as well as how large it is. Stage is expressed as a number between 1 and 4. 1 is a small tumor that is only in the breast. 2 and 3 are tumors that are larger or have spread to nearby tissues. 4 is a tumor that has spread to other organs. Stage is often written as a Roman numeral, from I to IV.
  • Surgical margins If you’ve had a mastectomy or lumpectomy, the pathology report will specify the size of the surgical margins. To reduce the risk of leaving tumor cells behind, the surgeon tries to cut out a border of healthy tissue from around the tumor. This healthy tissue is the surgical margin. While the surgeon makes every effort to get a good margin, the pathologist may later find microscopic tumor cells that were invisible to the surgeon. This is an “involved margin”. If you have a poor or involved margin, it may be wise to get radiation and additional surgery.
  • Oncotype Dx score Some tumors clearly benefit from chemotherapy. For others, the decision is less clear. This test can be done on a sample of your tumor tissue from a lumpectomy or mastectomy. The results can tell you how beneficial chemotherapy would be. For DCIS, Oncotype Dx can clarify whether radiation therapy is needed.
  • Targeted markers: Identify factors in your overall health that guide tumor behavior. For example, elevated C reactive protein predicts poor prognosis, and natural therapies can normalize elevated C reactive protein.

Breast Cancer Treatment Decisions

Once you understand your breast cancer type, it’s easier to make breast cancer treatment decisions. For example, a high grade stage 1 ER positive invasive ductal carcinoma can be fairly benign, and may benefit from conservative surgery, intraoperative radiation, and no chemotherapy. However, if that same tumor is “triple negative” with an involved tumor margin and a high Ki-67, then chemotherapy may be indicated.

Tumor type also guides our choice of natural therapies. Natural therapies can decrease the expression of Ki-67 and BRCA. Some natural therapies work on hormone receptors and are best used with ER positive tumors. Other therapies act on cell growth and are useful in both receptor positive and triple negative cancers. Cancer type also guides decisions about alternative breast cancer therapies.

What Integrative Breast Cancer Therapies Can Help Me?

There are many options in integrative therapies for breast cancer. Some are helpful. Coriolus, melatonin, and exercise all extend survival in breast cancer survivors. IV vitamin C and mistletoe improve quality of life. Other alternative therapies are ineffective, or even harmful. For example, did you know that essiac tea stimulates the hormone receptors in breast cancer cells? Did you know that cesium chloride can cause dangerous heart arrhythmias?

I can help you to choose the safest and most effective alternative therapies for breast cancer. And, I can help you with an integrative cancer care program — so that you get every resource available.

What Kinds of Natural Breast Cancer Therapies Are Helpful For My Cancer Type?

Visit the research section of our site and search for the tags that relate to your cancer type.

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