Most adults know someone – friend, relative, coworker – that has been diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. Treatment success rates have greatly improved over the last five decades thanks to the promotion of early detection techniques like self-exam and mammograms. Today the 5-year survival rate following localized breast cancer is over 90%. For more aggressive forms of breast cancer, the body of knowledge surrounding biomarkers continues to expand along with translation into personalized therapies and other novel approaches. Between standard treatment protocols and those that are experimental in nature, women (and occasionally, men) diagnosed with breast cancer today have significantly more options, information and resources than any other generation before them. Proof: according to the American Cancer Society, from 1989 to 2017, death rates from breast cancer in the United States dropped 40 percent.
Patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer will be referred to a nearby oncologist to discuss a treatment plan based on the stage and size of the tumor. More testing may be required during the early days of the diagnosis process to obtain genetic information for further plan refinement. Not all patients will set out on a straightforward path – some patients with rare tumors or presentations may look at treatments available elsewhere. For the more challenging presentations, patients will likely have a different journey fueled by second opinions, web research, insurance requirements, outreach to advocacy groups, clinical trial searches, and conversations with loved ones. These are important inputs into a decision that is hard to reverse once underway.
In these early decades of the 21st century, breakthroughs related to cancer have been substantial. In the breast cancer arena, the advances have happened on many fronts: 3-D mammography for clearer imaging, demonstrated genetic disposition linkages, solid tumor immunotherapy successes, better understanding of subtypes, evaluation of chemotherapy responses and much more. Every single advancement has been fueled by the efforts of clinical research participants.
Clinical research offers new opportunities for patients to participate in the evaluation of many different aspects of breast cancer including medical treatment approaches, side effect management, nutrition support, anxiety reduction, and pain control. It is easy to stay informed about clinical research for breast cancer. Register here to receive updates about new recruiting trials and research opportunities.
A variety of articles on topics of interest related to patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer.