Shouldn’t You Treat All Breast Cancer Aggressively (Just to Be Safe)?

The Short Answer from a breast cancer specialist

Q: Should doctors treat all breast cancer aggressively, just to be safe?

A: There are more treatments available to help women with breast cancer today, but every woman with breast cancer simply doesn’t need every possible treatment.

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Doctors have studied and learned from past treatment results. This has allowed us to safely personalize each woman’s care. Today, we can more easily provide the best results with less treatment and minimal side effects.

Researchers have found that some patients over age 65 with early-stage breast cancer may respond well to surgery alone and may not need chemotherapy or radiation. In fact, radiation hasn’t been shown to improve the long-term survival for some patients over age 65.

Similarly, chemotherapy is no longer prescribed for certain stages and types of breast cancer. We use molecular tests to determine which patients will and won’t benefit from chemotherapy.

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For some patients for whom radiation could be beneficial, we can minimize risk by using a single dose of radiation during surgery. This can lower the risk of recurrence without causing side effects.

With more information available about cancer molecular types, we can personalize and fine-tune a person’s care. It’s important to remember that aggressive treatment may not always mean a better outcome.

— Stephen Grobmyer, MD, Section Head of Surgical Oncology and the Director of Breast Services at Cleveland Clinic

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