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Breast Cancer Advances

# 1: better biopsy
Until recently, most breast cancer surgery involved removing a cluster of lymph nodes - the basic components of the body's drainage system. Trouble is, removing lymph nodes can result in lymphadema - a painful and disfiguring buildup of fluids in the arm that strikes 20% to 30% of patients. Now there's a newer option, sentinel node biopsy, in which only one lymph node is removed; this greatly reduces the risk of postsurgical problems.

# 2: Better Guidelines for patients
The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org ) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (an alliance of 19 leading cancer treatment centers) have come out with a revised edition of Breast Cancer Treatment Guidelines for Patients. These guidelines set out the most up-to-date standards, in patient-friendly language, so women and their doctors can make the best choices, no matter where they live.

# 3: A powerful last-resort drug
For women with advanced breast cancer, there's now hope in the form of a new drug called Herceptin. In about 25% to 30% of breast cancer patients with metastatic illness (meaning the cancer has spread), their tumors overproduce a protein called HER2, which makes the cancer grow very rapidly. Herceptin can temporarily slow down the excess growth, extending patients' lives.

# 4: More accurate mammography
Digital mammography, approved this year by the FDA, may help doctors catch cancers as early as possible.

# 5: Ductoscopy
Another promising new diagnostic tool is , which uses a very thin fiber-optic tube equipped with a tiny camera lens to give doctors a view of the milk ducts inside the breast.

Source: By Elizabeth Austin for Lifetime

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