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A diagnosis of breast cancer can be scary and difficult. Patients often have many questions about treatment options and how the disease will change their daily lives. Dr. Amy Degnim, a Mayo Clinic surgeon, says breast cancer is not one-size-fits-all, and treatments depend on many factors.
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"Breast cancer is an entire spectrum of disease, from very-low grade ductal carcinoma in situ, which is almost similar to just an atypical finding that is considered benign, all the way up to the other end of the spectrum, which is a very high-grade, invasive tumor," says Dr. Degnim.
Treatment depends on several factors, including what the cancer looks like under a microscope.
"Some tumors have strong estrogen receptors on the outside of their tumor cells, and some tumors do not. Some tumors have HER2 receptors," says Dr. Degnim.
Cell receptors determine treatment options, which can be targeted to specific types of tumors.
"So in terms of creating treatment plans, it is quite complex. We recommend that that be done often through a multidisciplinary team," says Dr. Degnim.
Treatment plans may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and medication depending on type, size, stage, location and grade of tumor.
The encouraging news is that treatment for breast cancer keeps getting better.
"We have come a long way in the last few decades," says Dr. Degnum. She goes on to say that most women survive breast cancer.