TREATING BREAST CANCER: Surgery, Radiation, Chemo and Hormone Therapy


Being the number one among other countries is indeed an achievement for a third world nation such as the Philippines. However, being on top in Asia for the highest number of incidence of breast cancer is not the best news Filipinos will be proud about. According to, with every 13 Filipino women, 1 is at risk of getting it in her lifetime. In an article from ABS-CBN news, Dr. Aldine Basa, a breast surgeon from The Medical City, breast cancer can also occur in men with about less that 1% chance.

Breast cancer may start from the inner lining of milk ducts which supply the milk and from there, spread to other parts of the body. Although the cause of it has not been pinpointed yet, many factors such as age, genetics, the dense of breast tissues, breast-feeding, body weight, and alcohol consumption can greatly impact one’s chance. Ways to cure will always go back to how one knows what it is through vigilance of its symptoms. These may include: a thickened tissue or a lump, unreasonable pain in the armpit area, reddish or orange-like color of the skin in the breast area, rash around nipples, nipple discharge, sunken nipple, change in size of the breast, and/or peeling of the skin. However, things can get worse, and with that, more special treatments are offered to the public to treat the cancer.

  1. Surgery

Surgeries may be a stand-alone treatment or a part of a treatment depending on the features of the cancer. It may depend on one’s medical history or simply by one’s own choice. Thus, it is important to know the two types of surgery for breast cancer.

  • Breast-conserving surgery

It is also called a lumpectomy, quadrantectomy, partial mastectomy, or segmental mastectomy.

This is done to remove the part of the breast which contains the cancer. It may also remove some surrounding tissue depending on the size and location of the lump or tumor and other related factors.

  • Mastectomy

In this type of surgery, the entire breast tissue and in some cases, even the nearby tissues are removed. If the tumor got worst and affected the other breast, double mastectomy is done in which both breasts are removed.

  1. Radiation

Radiation is used to annihilate cancer cells using high-energy rays that are often an additional treatment to another therapy. The need of having this therapy depends on what surgery one has gone through and whether the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Although not all women with breast cancer need to undergo this therapy, it is used in situations like:

  • After breast-conserving therapy, it helps lower the chance of cancer come back or to develop cancer on nearby lymph nodes;
  • After mastectomy, when the tumor is larger than 2 inches and;
  • If the cancer has spread out to other parts such as the bones or brain.

There are two types of radiation, the external and internal radiation. External beam radiation is done by using a machine outside the body. And Internal radiation or brachytherapy, is used by putting a radioactive source inside the body for a short time. It is best to discuss these with your doctor for a better option.

  1. Chemotherapy

This may be the infamous therapy most Filipinos have ever known due to consistent appearance on TV shows. It is a treatment where drugs are either injected to the vein or orally taken. The cancer-killing drug travels through the bloodstream that reaches the whole body. In some cases, it is directly injected to the spinal fluid which envelope the brain and spinal cord. However, the effectivity of this treatment is based from the response of one’s body to the injected drug.

Like the radiation therapy, not all women need to undergo chemo but there are situations in which it is highly recommended such as:

  • After surgery

This is called an adjuvant chemo where it tries to kill the cancer cells that might have been left behind or have spread out but were not seen. This type of chemo can lower the risk of the cancer to return because they kill the potential cells that may form into new tumors.

  • Before surgery

This is called the neoadjuvant chemo which tries to shrink the tumor to avoid extensive surgery due to the huge size of the tumor to be removed. By undergoing this type of chemo, it will better inform your doctor about your body’s response towards the drug. If it fails to shrink the tumor, new drug should be needed to make sure that the cancer cells will be killed and won’t spread into the other parts of the body.

  • Advanced Type

This is when chemo becomes the stand-alone treatment for the cancer which has spread outside the breast and underarm area, regardless if it was diagnosed or after initial treatments.

  1. Hormone Therapy

It is called systematic therapy, it reaches cancer cells in all parts of the body not just in the breast. It’s recommended for women with hormone receptor-positive (ER-positive and/or PR-positive) breast cancers. And it does not help women whose tumors are hormone receptor-negative (both ER- and PR-negative). Estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) and progesterone-receptor positive (PR+) suggest that cancer signals may be received from estrogen and progesterone which promote the growth. When a receptor is in negative state, receptors are not present which means that hormonal therapy is unlikely to work.

It is mostly used after a surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer to return. It could also be used before the surgery but usually takes at 5 years to be done. In cases where the cancer has returned or has spread the body, this treatment is also used.


                Given all the treatment presented to the general public. It is best to understand that all of them may have different results depending on one’s health condition. Some may go together and some can stand alone. However, they all cannot guarantee a full healing effect to everyone. The best thing that a person needs to do is to take care of his body, eat healthy, and live a lifestyle which is grounded in prevention more than the cure.

Image by Artist / CC0 1.0