Health Tips Tuesday: advancements in breast cancer treatments

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 9:14 AM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, interim vice president and medical director with Baystate Cancer, discussed the options are available for those undergoing treatment.

What are some of the new advancements in the treatment of breast cancer?

Makari-Judson: “There are new advancements in every area and every aspect of treatment. For surgery, there are better cosmetic outcomes. There are new exposures to surrounding tissue. In medical oncology, we welcomed many new drugs. We had new therapy drugs and new chemo treatment, but now, our treatment options have expanded to include a group of drugs called targeted treatment. For cancers that are over expressing, we will use triple therapy and triple negative breast cancers and what is very exciting is a new category of drugs called anti-body drug congigents that treats specific subsets of breast cancer with less toxicity than chemotherapy.”

Are there new technologies that aid in breast cancer treatments and help improve patient outcomes?

Makari-Judson: “Some of the new testing has to do with molecular testing of the tumor. We are trying to learn more about what makes cancer respond to one treatment but perhaps be resistant to another. In particular, we have been using molecular testing to determine who will react best to chemotherapy and what individual we can spare from chemotherapy and treat with hormone therapy alone.”

Is neoadjuvant chemotherapy helpful in the treatment of breast cancer?

Makari-Judson: “Most people will have surgery first and then determine that neoadjuvant treatments to be beneficial. For many people, there may be significant benefit to getting chemotherapy up front. That’s what we call neoadjuvant treatment. This can help tumor size and allow for less extensive surgery, but importantly, it allows us, as the medical oncologists, to assess the response to these medicines to personalize the treatment and to make the best recommendations after surgery. This type of strategy is really important and very complex to do well. Thankfully, we have a highly functioning team to coordinate this type of care, and we are in the process of publishing this with Bay State.”

Are we getting closer to a cure?

Makari-Judson: “The chances on an individual surviving breast cancer have increased significantly over the past 30 years. It is partly due to screening mammography partly due to better surgery to better radiation and better medications. I think we are moving in the right direction and our treatments are more and more effective each.”