Treating Breast Cancer: Understanding The Facts

Treating breast cancer and understanding breast cancer is critical to reducing its impact.

In the United States alone, it is estimated that about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.

While these statistics sound scary, knowledge is power when it comes to fighting and treating breast cancer.

What are the risk factors, the hereditary and genetic aspects, the different stages of the disease and the specialized programs that offer support and hope?

Breast Cancer Risk Factors:

Understanding breast cancer risk factors is a crucial first step in its prevention and early detection:

  • Age: The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and most cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 50.
  • Gender: Although breast cancer can affect men, it is much more common in women.
  • Family history: a family history of breast cancer can raise your risk, especially if first-degree, blood-related relatives such as a mother, sister or daughter have been diagnosed.
  • Genetic mutations: Inherited mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 significantly increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Personal history: a previous diagnosis of breast cancer increases the likelihood of recurrence.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: prolonged use of hormone replacement therapy may slightly raise the risk.
  • Radiation exposure: high levels of radiation exposure, especially during early life, may increase risk.
  • Dense breast tissue: Women told by a healthcare provider that they have dense breast tissue have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Stages of Breast Cancer:

Breast cancer is labeled in stages from 0 to IV, with stage 0 being non-invasive and stage IV indicating advanced disease that has spread:

  • Stage 0: ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive breast cancer confined to the milk ducts.
  • Stage I: small tumors have formed but have not spread to lymph nodes or distant sites.
  • Stage II: Tumors may be larger or have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: locally advanced cancer, often involving multiple lymph nodes or surrounding tissues.
  • Stage IV: metastatic breast cancer has spread to distant organs such as the bones, liver or lungs.
Breast Cancer - Dana Farber

Specialized Programs to Treat Breast Cancer:

Specialized breast cancer programs and centers play a key role in diagnosis, treatment and support:

  • Comprehensive Cancer Centers: these centers offer multidisciplinary teams of experts in oncology, surgery, radiology and genetics.
  • Breast health clinics: specialized clinics offering screening, risk assessment, genetic counseling and personalized care plans.
  • Supportive care programs: programs offer emotional support, survivorship care and resources for patients and their families.
  • Clinical trials: cutting-edge research and clinical trials in specialized programs contribute to advances in breast cancer treatment.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: a Pioneer in Breast Cancer Care and Treatment

Here’s how Dana-Farber helps women with breast cancer:

1. Experts Who Specialize in Treating Breast Cancer:

Dana-Farber has a team of world-class oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and nurses who specialize in breast cancer.

These experts work together to decide how to care for the individual patient, ensuring the most effective and personalized care.

2. Multidisciplinary Care:

Breast cancer care at Dana-Farber follows a multidisciplinary approach.

Patients benefit from a team of specialists who collectively evaluate and plan treatment strategies.

This ensures that all aspects of care are considered, from surgery to radiation therapy to medical oncology.

3. Cutting-edge Research:

Dana-Farber is at the forefront of breast cancer research.

The Institute develops new scientific studies and makes them available to the community with the goal of developing new therapies and treatment approaches to help people heal. 

4. Supportive Care:

Dana-Farber offers a variety of supportive care services, including counseling, support groups, to help patients and their families cope with the disease.

5. Patient-centered Approach:

The institute places a strong emphasis on patient-centered care.

Dana-Farber health professionals make sure patients and their loved ones understand medical information, include them in decision-making and think about the individual’s overall well-being throughout the treatment process.

6. Community Outreach:

Dana-Farber goes out into the community to raise breast cancer awareness, provide information on risk factors and screening, and promote early detection, which means finding cancer in the body before there are any symptoms.

7. Equity and Inclusiveness:

Dana-Farber is committed to addressing health care disparities and ensuring equitable access to care. The Institute offers high-quality cancer care to individuals from all backgrounds, languages and identities.

Efforts are made to reach out to minority and underserved populations, including Latinos, Arabs, African Americans, and others who may face unique challenges in accessing care.

Advances in early detection, personalized treatment and supportive care are transforming the disease landscape.

Regular screenings, knowing one’s own family or personal risk factors and understanding special treatment programs can help an individual feel better sooner.  

In the fight against breast cancer, knowledge and hope are our most powerful allies.

Visit Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s table and learn more about their programs this month as we commemorate the fight against breast cancer.

Our sources:

The information contained on the My Health Fair website should not be construed as professional advice or medical recommendations.

Readers should direct any questions regarding their personal health care to licensed physicians or other appropriate health care professionals.