Breast cancer and the possibilities of alternative treatment

Breast cancer is one of the most common oncological diseases affecting primarily women, but exceptionally also men. It is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast tissue, which can lead to tumor formation. Breast cancer can take many forms, with different types and stages requiring specific approaches to treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to increasing the chances of treatment success and reducing the risk of spreading the disease. With increasing awareness and medical advances, the possibilities for successful treatment and support for those facing this disease are increasing.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is one of the most serious health threats faced by women all over the world, and unfortunately, even men are not completely immune to this disease. When we talk about breast cancer, we mean that the cells in the breast have started to grow abnormally and uncontrollably. This unusual growth can form a mass or tumor that can be detected on mammograms or physically manifest as a lump in the breast, often prompting an initial consultation with a doctor.

Breast cancer is a complex disease with many variants that differ not only in origin, but also in aggressiveness, sensitivity to treatment and overall impact on the patient. Therefore, diagnosis and treatment must be specifically adapted to the type and stage of cancer, as well as to the individual needs and health status of the patient. The key to successfully managing breast cancer is early detection and comprehensive, personalized treatment.

One of the most serious aspects of breast cancer is its ability to metastasize, that is, to spread to distant parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, lungs, and brain. This spread is caused by cancer cells traveling through the blood or lymphatic system. Metastases can cause further complications and are the main cause of related deaths.

Breast cancer is a global health problem. It affects millions of women every year, making it the most common cancer among women in Slovakia and the world. With approximately 2.3 million new cases reported in 2020 according to the WHO and IARC, the disease is the leading cause of cancer morbidity and mortality among women. In the US, it is estimated that one in eight women faces this diagnosis during her lifetime, while in Slovakia, thousands of new cases are diagnosed every year, which emphasizes the need for effective screening, prevention and treatment. According to statistics (WHO), there were 4,900 cancer deaths in Slovakia in 2014, of which 16.9% were associated with breast cancer.

In addition to traditional treatment methods such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, many patients are also seeking alternative treatments that can provide additional support and hope.

We focus on providing personalized care using the most modern diagnostic methods. We create comprehensive and customized treatment plans tailored to each patient, expanding treatment options beyond conventional medicine. If you are interested in learning more about our services or need a consultation, please contact us.

Distribution of breast tumors

Benign tumors (benign)

Benign tumors are usually confined to their original location and do not tend to spread to surrounding tissues or distant parts of the body. These tumors grow more slowly and are less aggressive than malignant tumors.

In many cases, benign tumors do not require immediate treatment and can be monitored for changes in their growth or behavior. However, if they cause symptoms or complications, they can be removed surgically.

Malignant tumors (malignant)

Malignant tumors are aggressive and have the potential to grow invasively and spread to surrounding tissues (metastasis). These tumors can seriously disrupt the body's functions and are the leading cause of cancer deaths.

Treatment of malignant tumors often requires a combination of approaches including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. Early detection and treatment are critical to improve prognosis.

Breast cancer and alternative treatment options

Types of breast cancer and their characteristics

Breast cancer is a complex disease with many subtypes that differ in their biological characteristics, prognosis and response to treatment.

Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)

The most common type of breast cancer, it accounts for about 70-80% of all cases. It starts in the milk ducts of the breast and has the potential to spread to the surrounding breast tissue and other parts of the body.

Treatment depends on the stage of the disease, tumor size, presence of hormone receptors and HER2 status. Options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy.

Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC)

It accounts for about 10-15% of breast cancer cases. It starts in the glandular tissues of the breast (lobules) and is known for its ability to spread in the later stages of the disease.

Similar to IDC, the treatment of ILC depends on several factors, including the stage of the disease and the biological characteristics of the tumor. ILC can sometimes be harder to detect on mammograms because of its tendency to spread more than a solid tumor.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

A non-invasive type of breast cancer where the cancer cells are only found in the milk ducts and have not spread to the surrounding tissue. DCIS is often considered an early form of breast cancer or a pre-stage condition that may or may not lead to invasive cancer.

Treatment often involves surgery, such as a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy, or a mastectomy, especially if the DCIS is extensive. Hormone therapy may also be recommended for certain patients.

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)

This type of breast cancer does not have receptors for estrogen, progesterone or HER2, making it unresponsive to hormone therapy and some targeted therapies. TNBC is known for its aggressiveness and higher risk of recurrence, especially in the first 3-5 years after treatment.

Chemotherapy remains the main form of treatment for TNBC. Research is focused on developing new therapies that could improve outcomes for patients with this type of cancer.

HER2-positive breast cancer

This type of breast cancer produces excessive amounts of the HER2 protein, which promotes the growth of cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancer was once considered one of the more aggressive forms, but the development of targeted therapies has significantly improved the prognosis.

Targeted therapy, such as trastuzumab (Herceptin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta), along with chemotherapy, is the standard treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer, resulting in significantly improved survival and reduced risk of recurrence.

Each type of breast cancer requires an individualized approach to treatment based on a comprehensive analysis of the tumor's biological characteristics and the patient's overall health. Advances in medical research and personalized medicine bring new hope for breast cancer patients, offering more specific and effective treatment options.

What causes breast cancer?

Risk factors and genetic predispositions are important aspects that affect an individual's likelihood of developing breast cancer. These factors can vary greatly between individuals and are not all of equal weight or importance in determining risk. Let's take a look at some of the most important risk factors and genetic predispositions that can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Risk factors

Risk factors are conditions or exposures that can increase the likelihood of developing a disease. In breast cancer they include:

Genetic predispositions

Genetic predispositions are inherited mutations in DNA that can increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer. Among the most famous are:

BRCA1 and BRCA2: These two genes are well known for their association with a significantly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Women with mutations in these genes have a 45 to 65% chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetime.

ATM, CHEK2, and PALB2: Mutations in these genes also increase the risk of breast cancer, although not as significantly as mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Genetic testing: Can identify the presence of specific mutations, allowing individuals and their doctors to better understand their risk and decide on preventive measures or screening strategies.

Understanding risk factors and genetic predispositions is key to individual breast cancer prevention and screening planning. For those at high risk, more intensive screening or preventive measures, such as chemoprevention or prophylactic surgery, may be recommended. It is always important to discuss these options with your doctor, who can provide personalized recommendations based on your individual health profile and family history.

Detection and diagnosis of breast cancer

Detection and diagnosis of breast cancer are critical steps in the early identification of the disease, which can significantly improve the prognosis and effectiveness of treatment. Early recognition of symptoms and regular screening play a key role in the fight against breast cancer.

Breast cancer and alternative treatment options

Symptoms

Changes in breast size or shape

Any unusual change in breast size or contour should be a reason for attention. Although not all such changes are caused by cancer, it is important to investigate them further.

Lumps in the breast or armpit

The presence of a firm lump that was not felt before can be one of the first signs of breast cancer. It does not have to cause pain and can be firm or mobile to the touch.

Changes in the skin of the breast

Appearance of the skin on the breast that resembles an orange peel, skin retraction, nipple retraction, nipple rash, thickening of the breast tissue, redness.

Dimples or other visible changes in the skin of the breast or nipple can signal the presence of cancer.

Discharge from the nipple

Any unusual nipple discharge, especially if it is bloody or occurs without squeezing, should be investigated.

Pain in breast or armpit

Although breast pain is not typically the main symptom of breast cancer, persistent pain in the breast or armpit area may be cause for concern.

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor immediately. But do not forget that the presence of these symptoms does not necessarily mean breast cancer. Many of them can also be caused by other, less serious medical conditions.

Breast cancer and alternative treatment options

Diagnostic methods

Screening and diagnostic methods are essential tools in the fight against breast cancer, providing valuable information that helps determine the most appropriate treatment for each patient. Here's a closer look at the main methods used to detect and diagnose breast cancer.

Clinical breast examination

During the clinical examination, your doctor will carefully feel your breasts and the lymph nodes in the armpit and neck area to detect the presence of possible lumps or other abnormalities. As part of the anamnesis, the doctor will also ask you about the possible occurrence of breast cancer in the family and find out information about your menopausal status. The examination may also include blood sampling for standard laboratory tests. If these initial tests show any suspicion of a breast tumor, your doctor may refer you for further imaging tests, such as mammography or breast ultrasound, for a more detailed diagnosis.

Mammography

Mammography is an imaging method that uses low-dose X-rays to image the inside of the breasts. It is the most commonly used screening method that can detect tumors before they are palpable and identify microcalcification deposits that can be the first sign of cancer. Mammography is recommended for women over 40 or 50 (as recommended by health authorities) on an annual basis or every two years. Early detection with mammography can significantly improve the prognosis of breast cancer.

Ultrasound of the breast

Breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the breast and is often used as an adjunct to mammography, especially when the breast is too dense for a mammogram to provide a clear image. Ultrasound is useful in distinguishing whether a breast lump is fluid-filled (a cyst) or solid (which may be a sign of cancer or a benign growth).

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast

MRI of the breast is a highly sensitive method that may be recommended for women at high risk of breast cancer or when the results of other tests are inconclusive. MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of the breast. This method can help to better visualize certain types of tumors and determine the extent of cancer disease.

Biopsy

A biopsy is a diagnostic procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed from the breast for microscopic examination. There are several types of biopsies, including fine-needle aspiration biopsy, coarse-needle biopsy, and excisional biopsy. A biopsy is the only definitive way to confirm the presence of cancer cells in the breast.

Genetic testing

For women with a family history of breast cancer or for those who have genetic mutations that increase cancer risk (eg, BRCA1 or BRCA2), genetic testing may be recommended. This testing can help determine cancer risk and inform decisions about prevention and screening.

Self-examination of the breast

Regular breast self-examination allows women to become familiar with their breasts and notice any changes or abnormalities. Although self-examination should not replace screening methods such as mammography, it can be a valuable tool for early detection of potential problems.

It is best to perform a self-examination a few days after the end of menstruation, when the breasts are the least sensitive. Observe the breasts in a mirror with your arms raised and then lowered, looking for any changes in size, shape or skin. Then gently feel the breast, using your fingertips and making small, circular movements, feel the entire breast and the armpit area.

Early detection is key, so it is important to contact a healthcare professional if you notice any changes or abnormalities.

Innovative and alternative approaches

Complementary medicine plays a key role in the approach to breast cancer treatment. By integrating alternative therapies into traditional treatment plans, it is possible to provide patients with more comprehensive care that supports not only physical, but also emotional and mental health.

In the field of breast cancer treatment, innovative alternative approaches have been emerging in recent years that complement traditional methods and offer patients new options. These approaches include advanced diagnostic techniques such as liquid biopsy and genetic testing that allow doctors to better understand the characteristics of the tumor and tailor treatment. Patients are also increasingly using therapies aimed at improving overall health and supporting the immune system, including gut microbiome optimization, infusion therapy and methods aimed at improving cellular energy and regeneration. Hormone therapy, which targets specific hormonal pathways important for tumor growth, and integrative oncology approaches, which combine conventional treatment with alternative methods to promote physical and psychological well-being, are other key components of current breast cancer treatment. These modern strategies represent promising options for patients looking for a comprehensive and personalized approach to the treatment of their disease.

Breast cancer and alternative treatment options

Our unique approach to health care

We understand that every patient is specific. We use advanced diagnostic tools such as genetic panels to identify specific tumor characteristics, allowing us to design tailored treatment plans that target specific genetic components of cancer. This approach increases the effectiveness of treatment and minimizes potential side effects.

We create comprehensive treatment strategies that include not only the latest medical procedures, but also complementary methods such as nutritional counseling, physical activity and psychological support to promote the overall health and well-being of our patients.

The basis of our approach is to empower patients by actively involving them in the decision-making process about their treatment. We provide detailed information about available treatment options, benefits and potential risks, enabling patients to make informed decisions about their care. This approach promotes a sense of control and responsibility for one's health, which is key to positive treatment results.

Conclusion

Breast cancer presents a complex challenge, but with advances in diagnosis, treatment and support, there are more options than ever before. It is important that patients and their families continue to educate themselves about the disease and use available resources to support their healing process.

A precise diagnosis is the basis for creating a personalized treatment plan. It allows doctors to choose the most effective treatment methods specific to the type and stage of cancer. This approach increases the chances of treatment success and minimizes the risk of side effects.

With a holistic approach to treatment that includes traditional medicine and alternative treatments, patients can face breast cancer with courage and confidence in a better future.

Our practice is here to support you every step of the way in the fight against breast cancer. With our holistic approach and focus on innovative diagnostics and personalized treatment plans, we can offer you the best possible care.

Sources:

  • Introductory photo: https://www.mypathologyreport.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/c02fa8_a41dfab215ac477b809dd9172f541601mv2.jpg

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