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
# 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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