Cancer attacks a patient both physically and emotionally. 1 in 8 American women is likely to develop breast cancer at some stage in their life, which means the average risk is about 13 percent.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers, and the growing statistics are concerning. In 2021, the American Cancer Society estimates:
- Close to 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are to be diagnosed
- Almost 49,290 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) are to be diagnosed
What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer is the group’s name of over 100 diseases. It occurs in a body when cells outgrow abnormally, leading to genes mutation that regulates cell growth.
In women, breast cancer is one of the most common that develop in their breast cells. The cancer is diagnosed either in the breast’s lobules or the ducts. Lobules glands produce milk, and ducts are the channel to transfer the milk from the glands to the nipple. Generally, the cancer cells attack healthy breast tissues and travel to the lymph nodes under the arms, through which it moves quickly to other body parts. (Herndon, 2021)
The earliest stage breast cancers are stage 0 (carcinoma in situ), which may later advance between stages 1 to 4 depending on the spread of cancer cells.
In some cases, women with breast tumors that have higher protein levels known as HER2 are diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancers.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Every October, people come together to support breast cancer patients and raise awareness about the new developments in research and care. Medical experts and researchers work tirelessly to find improved ways to diagnose and treat breast cancer patients.
The evolving technologies in healthcare have accelerated the research, and the past year has given them breakthroughs – from nanotechnology to result-oriented tests.
FDA Approved Drugs and Treatment for HER2-Positive Breast Cancer
The FDA has approved many targeted therapies to treat HER2-positive breast cancer, including Trastuzumab (Herceptin) and Pertuzumab (Perjeta) combined with chemotherapy for both early and advanced breast cancer.
Tucatinib (Tukysa) combined with trastuzumab and capecitabine (Xeloda) is approved to treat HER2-positive breast cancer.
Neratinib Maleate (Nerlynx) is approved for early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer patients and Ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) for advanced HER2-positive breast cancer patients.
Mammograms Using Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Earlier, a human radiologist looked at mammogram results to confirm the disease in a patient. And sometimes, the diagnosis and outcome were misleading.
Many mammographs came with a false-positive result. Today, radiologists are using artificial intelligence (AI) software to read mammograms better. Expert studies, however, indicate that AI isn’t advanced enough yet to replace human eyes completely. But, it helps get more accurate results by assisting radiologists with the use of algorithms in addition to manually checking scans.
Alternatively, researchers are looking for more optimum ways to bring artificial and human intelligence together to diagnose breast cancer in patients.
In the past year, liquid biopsy is one of the most significant breakthroughs to detect cancer cells. A liquid biopsy for breast cancer is known to have multiple advantages over the current methods like tissue biopsy.
Doctors can use the test to find circulating tumor DNA – tiny amounts of DNA from a cancer tumor in the bloodstream. It helps monitor how the tumor evolves during treatment, which can aid in targeted cancer treatments to patients.
Liquid biopsies are used in managing breast cancer and other diseases too like lung cancer. However, the test has its limitations. A study revealed that most of the mutations in these tests came from white blood cells and not cancer cells. More research is underway to find an ideal way to use a liquid biopsy to help treat cancer patients.
Chemotherapy can target the cancer cells directly using nanoparticles and without disturbing the tissues around them. The drugs later used in the treatment can be more effective with fewer harmful side effects. Many drugs are approved for nanotechnology usage in the treatment.
Experts say devices that use nanotechnology can also help find cancer too. They assist doctors in finding signs of cancer cells in the blood or other fluids.(Nazario, 2021)
Finding Breast Cancer in Our Genetics
A new study in Nature Scientific Reports explains how an inexpensive genomic analysis can predict a person’s health risk for breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Computing the polygenic risk can correctly predict up to 90% reliability that which one of the siblings can develop adverse health conditions like breast cancer, coronary artery disease, diabetes, etc. Researchers also noted that the technique works well at comparing relative risk in random pairs of individuals. (Murphy, 2020)
Keep the Hope Alive with Science
New diagnostic and treatment discoveries keep our hope alive. Each year, we inch closer to minimizing breast cancer threats. While prolific, early breast cancer detection with self-exams and mammograms is the best way to fight breast cancer. Stay vigilant. Check your local healthcare providers in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and learn more about the organizations in your community supporting women and men through the breast cancer journey, as well as survivors.
Herndon, J. (2021, May 3). A Comprehensive Guide to Breast Cancer. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/breast-cancer.
NIH, N. C. I. (2021, April 9). Advances in breast cancer research. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/research.
Nazario, B. (2021, February 8). Breakthroughs in Finding & Treating Breast Cancer. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/guide/breast-cancer-treatment-advances.
Murphy, J. (2020, October 15). 7 new breakthroughs in breast cancer research. MDLinx. https://www.mdlinx.com/article/7-new-breakthroughs-in-breast-cancer-research/4eCvw2ycCpUGZ5kugzBPxt.