Breast cancer treatment

We found 28 clinics & 45 doctors for Breast cancer Worldwide. AiroMedical ranks among 421 hospitals based on qualification, experience, success rate, and awards.

Breast cancer occurs in the mammary gland and affects one in eight women worldwide. Therefore, screening tests for early diagnosis are vital for every woman. Treatment methods for breast cancer include surgical treatment, chemo-, immuno-, target and hormonal therapies, radiotherapy, brachytherapy, radiosurgery, and interventional chemotherapy.

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of malignant cells in the breast tissues. There are a few types of tumours in the breast, depending on the origin:

  • Ductal carcinoma occurs in the milk duct and can infiltrate surrounding tissues (invasive ductal carcinoma) or does not spread (in situ).
  • Lobular carcinoma originates in the lobes of the breast and can spread to neighbouring tissues (invasive lobular carcinoma) or take a stable place without damaging surrounding tissues.
  • Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most challenging diagnosis and treatment type because the primary three markers of breast cancer are absent in this case.
  • Inflammatory type is a rare but very aggressive form of breast cancer similar to inflammation.
  • Paget's disease is a form of breast cancer in which a malignant process damages the nipple and skin around it.

In the case of non-invasive cancer, cells divide uncontrollably but do not go beyond the place where they formed (for example, intraductal carcinoma). It is also called "cancer in situ", meaning cancer in place. In approximately 30% of cases, non-invasive cancer acquires a more aggressive course - becomes invasive.

If the tumour cells spread into the surrounding tissues, it is called invasive. These forms of breast cancer account for 70%. The most common types are invasive ductal and lobular carcinoma.

12,5% of women develop breast malignancy during their life. However, younger women are only rarely affected. The risk only rises from 40, especially from 50, before dropping again from around 70. Men can also get breast carcinoma, but very rarely. On average, only one in 100 people diagnosed with breast neoplasm is a man.

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Primary reasons for breast tumours

As with any oncology, the actual causes of breast cancer are unknown. However, various factors can increase the risk of developing breast neoplasm. The following risk factors are essential:

  • Heredity plays a specific role in the development of this disease (in 30%);
  • Breast carcinoma occurs in 99% of women and only 1% of men;
  • According to statistics, it is more common in women who have not given birth;
  • Overweight (obesity) and lack of exercise;
  • Type II diabetes mellitus;
  • Unhealthy diet (especially a high-fat diet);
  • Alcohol and nicotine;
  • Long-term replacement of female sex hormones after the age of 50 (menopause, hormone replacement therapy);
  • Dense breast tissue or high mammographic density;
  • Several cases of breast and ovarian cancer in the family;
  • Radiation of the chest in childhood (in the case of lymphoma).

The chance of getting the disease decreases with the number of pregnancies and the length of breastfeeding.

Breast tumour signs

Breast cancer in the early stages (I and II) is asymptomatic and does not cause pain. However, very painful menstruation and pain in the mammary glands should attract attention. Symptoms that give reason to suspect breast malignancy include:

  • Lumps or hardening in the breast or armpit;
  • Retraction of the nipple since the growth of the tumour into the skin;
  • Leaking of clear, purulent or bloody fluid from the nipple;
  • Changes in shape and size of one breast compared to the other;
  • Pinched skin on the breast (orange peel skin);
  • Redness or scaling of the breast skin, sometimes accompanied by pain, tightness or swelling.
  • Erosions, crusts, scales, ulcers in the nipple area, areolas;
  • An increase in axillary or supraclavicular lymph nodes.

However, the listed symptoms can be signs of conditions that are not malignant. Therefore, any breast changes must be checked by a doctor immediately. For this, it is necessary to contact a qualified mammologist as soon as possible, who will prescribe an examination and verify the diagnosis.

Tests for breast lump diagnosis

The screening aims to detect any tumours present as early as possible. As a result, the doctor can treat the disease with better results, and the chances of a permanent cure are higher. So there are a few ways of early detection:

  • Self-examination of the breasts. The woman should do that once a month. Before menopause, this should ideally take place in the first ten days of the cycle, i.e. on the days after the menstrual period.
  • Palpation by the doctor. The statutory breast cancer screening test is aimed at women over 30. The doctor examines both breasts and regional lymphatic nodes.
  • Mammography screening. There is a voluntary serial breast X-ray examination for women between 50 and 69 every two years. Mammography is currently the best method for examining abnormalities in the breast. It is used in screening and as a diagnostic tool for clarifying conspicuous symptoms.

Also, there are other methods for breast cancer diagnosis to detail the size, localisation of the lump, and its spreading to other tissues and organs:

An ultrasound of the breast and axillary lymph nodes is the screening for women with unclear findings in the mammography. As an early detection test, the ultrasound scan is also used at a young age as part of the intensified check-up.

Breast MRI examinations are also part of this early screening program. From about 40 years of age, these examinations are supplemented by a mammography every one to two years.

A biopsy of breast tissues is the removal and microscopic examination of a sample that reveals whether the process is benign or malignant. In addition, histological examination determines numerous other cell characteristics essential for individual therapy planning.

Modern laboratory tests allow the oncologist to determine the biological characteristics of the tumour. In particular, with the help of immunohistochemical research methods, it is possible to discover cancer's receptor status (presence or absence of estrogen and progesterone receptors). On average, breast cancer has such receptors in two out of three cases. The received information allows the physician to choose hormonal therapy.

Experts introduced the concept of stages of breast cancer to objectify the indications for this or that type of treatment and determine the prognosis of the disease:

  • Stage 0: in situ carcinoma, no involved lymph nodes, no metastases.
  • Stage I: tumour maximum two centimetres, neither affected lymph nodes nor metastases.
  • Stage II: tumour no more than five centimetres with limited lymph node involvement and no distant metastases.
  • Stage III: tumour of any size extending to the chest wall or skin, with lymph node involvement, but without distant metastases.
  • Stage IV: Distant metastases present.
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Modern treatment options available for breast cancer

Treatment tactics are determined individually in each specific case. Methods are often combined to achieve the best results so that each patient might receive different recommendations.

Surgical removal of the tumour is the basis of breast cancer therapy growing locally. However, this does not necessarily mean that the entire breast must be removed (mastectomy). Today, many women with breast cancer can have their breasts preserved (breast-conserving surgery, BET). The physician also removes the sentinel lymph node (the one that the lymph from the mammary gland first reaches) for histological examination (sentinel lymph node excision or SNE). When the pathologist processes the tissue, he clarifies whether the sentinel lymph node is tumour-free. If the lymph node is involved, it may be necessary to remove them in the armpit (lymphadenectomy or axillary dissection).

If a lot of breast tissue or the entire breast is removed, breast reconstruction can begin during the same procedure (immediate reconstruction). In leading clinics, breast surgeons might offer breast reconstruction after the surgery or use silicone implants to improve cosmetic appearance. However, reconstruction is also possible later – as a second intervention after drug treatment or radiotherapy (interval reconstruction).

Chemotherapy is used not only for advanced tumours but also in the early stages (neoadjuvant is before the operation, or adjuvant - after the procedure) if the appropriate indication exists. The aim is to destroy the tiniest breast tumour deposits, so-called micrometastases. There are also more specific, not systemic, types of chemotherapy:

  • Transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE) uses chemo drugs and arterial blood supply closure for cancerous cell killing.
  • Transarterial chemoperfusion (TACP) targets antitumour drugs through the arteries right into the tumour in the breast.

If the breast cancer cells have receptor sites for the hormones, so-called hormone receptors, the tumour is hormone receptor-positive. Therefore, anti-hormonal therapy is necessary here. The advantages are:

  • healthy cells stay unhurt directly;
  • antihormones are better tolerated;
  • can be taken for several years.

Immunotherapy activates the human immune system (antibodies) to fight malignant cells in the mammary gland. Targeted cancer therapy is a relatively young molecular-biological approach to treating breast cancer. The new specific active ingredients (biologicals) attack cancer cells more precisely – an effective method generally less stressful for the entire organism.

Radiotherapy is the most commonly used therapy in women with breast cancer. This is because high doses of ionising radiation damage the genetic material of the irradiated cells. However, cancer cells do not have a repair system that works like normal cells. That is why radiated malignant tumours cannot repair - the cell dies. In brachytherapy (internal radiation), doctors place the radiation source directly in the tumour or nearby. Modern radiosurgery robotic systems include CyberKnife and GammaKnife. With their help, specialists deliver high doses of radiation to cancerous cells in the breast. Proton therapy is a breast cancer treatment with the use of protons. It is much safer and less invasive than conventional radiotherapy.

After breast cancer therapy is completed, all women remain under the care of an oncologist. According to international recommendations, it is necessary to visit a specialist once every 3-6 months during the first 3-5 years. In the future, women should carry out control inspections once a year.

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The prognosis for breast cancer patients

How long a patient with metastatic breast cancer can survive depends on the malignancy of the tumour and the type of metastases. While patients with bone and skin metastases have a relatively favourable prognosis, the situation with metastases in the lungs, brain and liver is, unfortunately, less good.

The average life expectancy for advanced breast cancer used to be about two years after the first occurrence of metastases. However, around a quarter of the patients live for another five years, and every tenth patient lives for more than ten years.


Is breast cancer curable?

Mostly, breast cancer is curable if detected early and treated according to guidelines. As a result, the number of deaths is falling steadily, even though more women are developing breast cancer. Five years after diagnosis, 87% of patients are still alive

How is breast cancer treated?

Although breast cancer is the most common among women, its treatment is the most effective compared to other cancers. Many specific treatments now affect the cause of breast cell damage, including target, anti-hormonal, immunotherapy, transarterial chemoembolisation and chemoperfusion, proton and brachytherapy. Surgery also gives good treatment results: breast-conserving surgery, mastectomy, sentinel lymph node excision, lymphadenectomy and breast reconstruction.

How fast does breast cancer grow?

Breast cancer is not an aggressive, rapidly spreading malignant disease like many other cancers. Instead, it may take years for the tumour to spread to nearby tissues and metastasis.

Why do patients prefer clinics abroad for breast tumours?

It's common for patients worldwide to travel to hospitals with better breast cancer treatment statistics. In addition, modern clinics offer less invasive surgery for breast cancer or can save breast appearance, while local surgeons can only remove that entirely. At the same time, the whole range of targeted treatments can be prescribed instead of conventional chemotherpay.

How to cure breast cancer without surgery?

Surgery is the most effective method for breast cancer treatment. But, of course, the best result is given by a complex approach. In addition to surgery, there are target, anti-hormonal, immunotherapy, transarterial chemoembolisation and chemoperfusion, proton and brachytherapy. Minimally invasive techniques, such as CyberKnife and Gamma Knife, are not less effective and give excellent results. Therefore, depending on the cancer stage and the patient's characteristics, the oncologist may prescribe a treatment regimen without surgery.

Where can I get Breast cancer treatment?

Germany, Turkey, Spain, Poland, Lithuania are among the best for Breast cancer treatment.

5 countries and 16 cities for Breast cancer