Surviving cancer: treatment and tipsIt takes patience to fight breast cancer. Though the cure rate is close to 80 percent, the fight against the disease can take longer than some other cancers. Thus, breast cancer patients need to be extra vigilant for any recurrence.
As October is breast cancer awareness month, Professor Yang Jeong-hyeon of the Samsung Medical Center has offered some tips about the long struggle against breast cancer.
One characteristic of breast cancer is that it takes a long time to be free of the disease. In South Korea, according to the health ministry, absence of recurrence for five years after treatment is considered a complete cure for most other cancers, but the duration is 10 years for breast cancer.
The rate of survival for breast cancer is 84 percent, but the 10-year survival rate rate drops to 77 percent. Thus, continued monitoring is necessary for at least 10 years following surgery. Continued monitoring halves the rate of recurrence, and reduces the likelihood of death from a recurrence to one third.
The rate of recurrence after surgery is 15 percent for first stage patients, 20 percent to 25 percent for second stage patients and 60 percent for third stage patients. The recurrence rate is highest within the first two to three years after treatment.
The first step to preventing a recurrence is to undergo therapy before and after surgery.
Chemotherapy can take place before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor and possibly remove the need for surgery. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy are also given after surgery ― either a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and a small lump of tissue around it or a partial or total mastectomy ― to try to kill any cancer cells that remain.
To further prevent any recurrence of the cancer, exercise and diet programs are prescribed; nutritional plans call for diet changes such as avoiding animal fat consumption.
Breast cancer patients in Korea are relatively young compared to the U.S. Women in their 40s account for 41 percent of breast cancer patients in Korea. Therefore, even young Korean women should be aware of and watchful for the disease, as early diagnosis and treatment is vitally important.
by Hwang Se-hee