Various therapies are available to supplement or support breast cancer treatment. These include, radiotherapy and/or medication, such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
Radiotherapy may be administered both before and after breast surgery. Pre-operative radiotherapy aims to stop or reverse tumour growth. Post-operative therapy aims to destroy any remaining cancer cells in the breast or scar area to prevent a relapse. Computer tomography is used to individually calculate the right dosage of radiation and area to be treated. This helps to reduce the possible side effects, such as burns.
Nevertheless, the affected skin area remains extremely sensitive for the duration of the radio-therapy – which usually lasts five to six weeks.
Cytostatic chemotherapy aims to hinder cell division and destroy cells, thus pre-venting the formation of metastases. It is used, for example, when other forms of treatment – such as radiotherapy or hormone therapy – are insufficient, and the tumour cells are already spreading through the body.
Unfortunately, besides destroying cancer cells, chemotherapy also damages healthy, quickly dividing cells, such as are found in the roots of our hair or the gastrointestinal tract. It can therefore cause side effects such as hair loss, nausea and vomiting. These side effects can be controlled by individually combining the compounds with medication to stop nausea and vomiting. Like radiotherapy, chemotherapy can be administered both before and after surgery.
Some breast tumours are hormone receptor positive, i.e. caused by the influence of hormones such as oestrogen. Following surgery, patients with such tumours can receive hormone treatment to combat the body’s production of the hormones.
Breast reconstruction options
An increasingly important part of the recovery process following cancer related mammary loss is the restoration of appearance using a breast form or through breast reconstruction. Various methods and techniques are available for breast reconstruction – using either silicone or saline breast implants, or tissue taken from elsewhere on the body. This tissue is either taken from the large back muscle, or the lower abdominal area.