Only lung cancer kills more women each year in the United States than breast cancer does. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that over 184,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in women in 1996 (ACS Breast). Although these statistics are alarming, there are a number of treatment options available for those that are diagnosed with breast cancer.
The best way to treat any disease is to prevent it. Since little is known about breast cancer, there are no established rules for prevention. The ACS recommends that women age twenty and older perform monthly breast self-exams, and it also suggests clinical examinations every three years (ACS Breast). Mammography is also a wonderful tool for detecting tumors; however, there is conflicting data on when and how often women should have mammograms. What is known is that mammography is the best way to determine if a palpable lump is actually cancerous or not.
Treatment methods for breast cancer can be lumped in two major categories; local or systemic. Local treatments are used to destroy or control the cancer cells in a specific area of the body. Surgery and radiation therapy are considered local treatments. Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells anywhere in the body. Chemotherapy and hormonal therapy are considered systemic treatments.
Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer. Although there are many different types of breast cancer surgery, they all fit into a few basic categories. An operation that aims to remove most or all of the breast is called a mastectomy. If at all possible, doctors shy away from mastectomies due to the side effects which include loss of strength in the closest arm, swelling of the arm, and limitation of shoulder movement. If a mastectomy must be performed, the physician will often...