Topeka (WIBW) - More than 200,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year and treating those patients has come a long way over the past couple decades.
Dr. Michael McCann, a surgeon with Cotton-O'Neil Surgery, says today's techniques in the operating room strive to be less invasive. One of the biggest advances, he says, is sentinel lymph node dissection. In the procedure, a radioactive dye is injected to help surgeons pinpoint the one or two lymph nodes they must remove to see if breast cancer has spread, rather than removing all the lymph nodes as they had to do in the past. McCann says removing all the lymph nodes would often lead to problems such as long-term swelling.
There's also good news for women when it comes to removing the cancer itself. Mastectomy, where the full breast is removed, is no longer the rule. McCann says, if the cancer is small and depending on the size of the breast, surgeons can do what's called breast conservative therapy, where they take only the concerned area of tissue and a nice area around it, then follow up with radiation.
Being less invasive also means getting on with the next phase of treatment more quickly.
Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation also have changed a lot. Oncologist Karissa Boyd with the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center says doctors are always trying to determine more targeted treatments, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.
She says factors like age, size of tumor, lymph node involvement and the presence of certain hormonal indicators are taken into account. Doctors know certain hormones and genes can make cancers more responsive to certain treatments.
Of course, the success of these advances still depends on catching it early, so Boyd and McCann agree all women should get annual mammograms starting at age 40.
You can join the fight by joining the "Making Strides against Breast Cancer" walk in downtown Topeka. It takes place October 17th. Get more details and register at www.makingstridestopeka.org.