I always like articles that nicely summarize complex and lengthy topics. This piece from The New York Times does just that: giving a very brief history of breast cancer treatment and then information about leading areas of research and hope.
The overall trend, thankfully, has been towards less aggressive treatments. It was not so long ago that all women had radical mastectomies, surgery that pretty much carved off half of a woman's chest. Even thirty-five years ago, the standard chemotherapy for early breast cancer lasted for two years. Be grateful that we live when we do.
Here is the start and a link:
Outsmarting Breast Cancer With Evolving Therapies
Over the past few decades, changes in the treatment of breast cancer amount to a revolution in patient care. And it’s
not over yet. There was a time when the standard approach was a radical mastectomy, which involved removal of not just
the breast, but all the lymph nodes in the armpit and underlying muscles in the chest wall. This approach has been replaced
by less extensive surgery that, through decades of clinical trials, has proved to be equally effective at treating patients, as
well as safer and less disfiguring. Even simple mastectomies, in which most nodes and the muscles were left intact, have
become far less common. Dr. J. Dirk Iglehart, director of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber
Cancer Institute in Boston, estimated that he now performs a tenth of the number of mastectomies than when he entered
the field in the 1970s.
Currently, most women with early-stage breast cancer have a lumpectomy; only the tumor and a small margin of
surrounding normal tissue are removed, along with a few lymph nodes. Patients then receive localized radiation therapy
and often drug therapy to head off a recurrence.