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Developing breast cancer treatments help reduce invasive surgeries

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In partnership with Fox45

November 5, 2021
Even though Breast Cancer Awareness Month has passed, any time is a good time to discuss the roughly 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer that will be diagnosed in the United States this year.

The good news is advancements in treatment have led to an overall de-escalation of surgical therapy for women with breast cancer. Sara Fogarty, DO, FACS, Director of the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center at GBMC, says, “Women used to complete radical mastectomies where we would remove the breast, muscle and all lymph nodes. How we treat breast cancer has drastically changed over the last several decades, thanks to clinical trials.”

Dr. Fogarty says the outcomes of these trials are leading to more personalized therapies for women.

“Recently, the FDA approved neoadjuvant immunotherapy in certain triple negative breast cancer cases,” she says. “Patients with certain types of disease will undergo chemotherapy first, and we’re seeing complete pathologic responses, where there is no disease left in the surgical resection.”

“We follow the guidelines of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) regarding treatment, which depends on a few things – the type of tumor, the size of the tumor, and lymph node involvement being some of them.” Dr. Fogarty says breast conservation is a top priority at GBMC.

She emphasizes there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to breast cancer treatment.

“For example, there are many different types of cancer that would never require chemotherapy. she says. “It depends on the makeup of your tumor, your medical history, and what the imaging shows us.

“It’s a decision-making process that can be very complicated and varies from person to person,” she says.

New treatments for breast cancer are always being tested and studied, and Dr. Fogarty is enthusiastic about the developments happening in cancer care.

“We’re seeing more studies looking at minimally invasive treatments like cryotherapy (freezing small tumors). We are doing less sampling of lymph nodes in specific cases in women over 70 years old. These are all ways to potentially de-escalate the need for surgery.”

Dr. Fogarty says the best course of action after a diagnosis is to follow the recommendations of a team of doctors you trust.
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