Health Watch -- Treating Breast Cancer

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


A diagnosis of breast cancer isn't a death sentence.

This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Because breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women and because it gets so much attention, women have reason to be afraid of breast cancer. The good news is that it can be treated.

The first fear women face is finding a lump in a breast. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say 80 percent to 90 percent of breast lumps turn out to be benign. You should still see a doctor to rule out cancer, though. A mammogram or a biopsy will help determine if the lump is cancerous.

Even if cancer is detected, the treatment can be relatively simple, if the cancer is caught in the earliest stages. Dr. Phil Evans, director of the breast imaging program at UT Southwestern, says some smaller, self-contained cancers can be treated with a lumpectomy. Radiation may be used to make sure no cancer cells spread. It may not be necessary to remove the whole breast or to have chemotherapy. More involved cancers may require more extensive surgery and chemotherapy to make sure the cancer doesn't return.

The best way to improve your chances of surviving breast cancer is for it to be detected early by having regular mammograms.

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Oct. 2004

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