Breast Cancer Treatment: It’s Not One Size Fits All for Patient Care

October 18, 2023
Dr. Julie O’Brien Dennis, MD, FACS

Submitted by Julie O’Brien Dennis, MD, FACS   

Breast cancer care has undergone remarkable transformations over the years. Why? Because we have come to understand a fundamental truth: every breast cancer is as unique as the person it affects. 

Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all approach meant that many patients underwent intense procedures that might not have been necessary. 

As we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, here is a look at the advancements that have been made to customize treatments, allowing patients to achieve the best possible outcomes. 

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Personalized treatment: By understanding what drives each cancer – whether it is hormones, proteins or other factors – treatments can be tailored to the patient’s specific needs. This might mean hormone-blocking pills for some, reducing the need for chemotherapy. 

Evolving surgical approaches: Surgical techniques have evolved with a focus on preserving as much of the breast as possible. If a patient does ultimately need their breast removed, advanced reconstruction methods are available. 

Rethinking radiation: Radiation is not always required in the treatment of breast cancer, especially if a patient is older than age 65 and diagnosed with certain types of the disease. For those who can benefit from radiation, the process can often be tailored to offer a shorter duration of treatment and more targeted therapy. 

Staying informed and ahead: We are always researching and learning more about breast cancer. This means our treatment options continue to improve and become more personalized. Factors such as age, medical history, and the specific type of breast cancer will allow breast care professionals to continue providing their patients with the best plan tailored specifically to them. 

Each patient’s journey with breast cancer is a deeply personal one. The goal is to ensure that every patient’s treatment reflects their unique needs and circumstances, providing care that is ultimately as individual as they are. 

Julie O’Brien Dennis, MD, FACS, is director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Beth Israel Lahey Health’s Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington. 

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