Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be extremely worrying and intimidating for patients. Very few of us are well informed regarding the different treatment options available for breast cancer, and as such we may not be aware of some of the alternative breast cancer treatments available.
Knowledge is power and making informed choices under the guidance of a doctor regarding the treatment route you choose is important. This article aims to explain some of the alternative breast cancer treatments available and which of them actually work.
Traditional Breast Cancer Treatments
Before we look into alternative breast cancer treatments, let’s take a look at some of the traditional treatment methods you will likely be offered by your doctor.
Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells, often used to make tumors smaller or destroy them entirely. Chemotherapy is also often used in conjunction with other treatment methods such as surgery.
Surgery as a cancer treatment is a process in which the surgeon removes the cancer from your body. If the cancer is contained, this can be curative, however, when the cancer has spread from the source, other therapies must be used. For breast cancer, mastectomies are also common. This is where the surgeon removes the entire breast and sometimes areas around the breast.
Radiotherapy is given after surgery to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back in the breast, chest area or lymph nodes. If you’re having chemotherapy after surgery, radiotherapy is usually given after the chemotherapy.
Radiotherapy destroys cancer cells by using high-energy x-rays. Radiotherapy can be given to the local area or the whole breast (partial or whole breast irradiation) and is often split into a course of smaller treatments (called fractions), usually given daily over a few weeks.
The most frequently used radiotherapy for treating breast cancer is external beam radiotherapy. In this procedure, machines direct beams of radiation at the breast.
Many other treatments are frequently used such as hormonal therapy and targeted therapy that can be used on their own or in conjunction with chemotherapy or surgery.
Intra-Operative Radiotherapy as an Alternative Breast Cancer Treatment
Intra-operative radiotherapy is an alternative breast cancer treatment in which radiotherapy is administered to a surgically exposed site. For breast cancer, low-energy x-rays are given to the cavity following the removal of a tumor in the breast.
This alternative breast cancer treatment is beneficial to patients for many reasons. It is a shorter procedure and is delivered under anesthetic during the surgery. IORT targets the cancer without impacting the surrounding healthy tissues which means there is less recovery time required. Because the treatment takes place during the surgery, there is less time for the cancer to grow during recovery. IORT also doesn’t stop another lumpectomy if another tumor is found in the breast at a later date.
Holistic Alternative Breast Cancer Treatment
Many complementary alternative breast cancer treatments can be done at home alongside medical treatment. Mind-body therapies such as yoga, medication, and creative outlets can be used to help deal with side effects and feelings of anxiety you may face during your treatment.
It is also always important to ensure that you are having a good balance of nutrients and taking part in gentle exercise whenever you feel able to. All of these therapies should be undertaken alongside the other treatments discussed and you must ensure you consult your physician before embarking on any of these.
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