Breast cancer care

Millions of people get cancer each year, and while it is still a very serious disease, it often is not the death sentence that it used to be. Improvements in cancer screening as well as improvements in cancer treatment mean that many cancers are now curable. Treatments can include radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, targeted immune therapies or a combination of several of these treatments.

One of the most common treatments for many types of cancer is radiation therapy. This has been a standard cancer treatment for decades, and there have been mostly incremental improvements in the therapy. For example, cancer doctors have been able to make radiation therapy more targeted in many cancers, so it destroys less healthy tissue and causes fewer complications. There also have been variations in delivery methods to make radiation more effective. Radiation is used mostly for solid cancers, such as brain tumors, breast cancers and prostate cancers. A specific type of radiation, called proton beam therapy, has been successful in treating many types of cancers. Cancer proton therapy uses protons, or positively charged particles, to kill cancer cells. Proton therapy for brain cancer is one of the most effective brain cancer treatment options. In addition to proton therapy for brain cancer, it also is used effectively for breast and prostate tumors. Men with a low-grade prostate cancer have a 99 percent cure rate with proton therapy, while the effectiveness drops only slightly, to a 94 percent cure rate, in men with more intermediate tumors. Proton therapy, because it is so accurately targeted, tends to deliver much less radiation to the heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract than traditional x-ray radiation.

Another common cancer treatment is chemotherapy. This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy also has been around for decades and has seen a lot of improvement. The horrible side effects such as extreme nausea and hair loss have been overcome with many drugs, and their effectiveness has improved. Chemotherapy can be used with both solid tumors, such as a treatment for breast cancer or for treating prostate cancer, but it also can be used for blood cancers such as leukemia.

Other newer cancer treatments include immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to attack cancer, and gene treatments that target specific genes in specific types of cancer. These targeted therapies can be more effective, but they also are more limited as well and can often be used only in very specific cases.

Whether you are having proton therapy for brain cancer or chemotherapy for lymphoma, you have to stay positive and keep yourself healthy. Cancer is not the death sentence that it used to be and many cancers have very high cure rates.